Galactic Show Gets Better in Oregon, the Coast: Meteors, Planets and Super Moon
(Portland, Oregon) – It looks like the big Super Full Moon won't be the only game in town, for places like Portland or along the Oregon coast. While Saturday features a monster moon with it being at its closest point to the Earth (and thus 30 percent brighter than usual), there are a bunch of meteor showers that will be competing for attention, along with a show of planets from our solar system (above: Cannon Beach at night).
The bad news is that the unusually bright moon will cancel out the little sparks flying through the sky.
OMSI's Jim Todd said the May full moon take places at 8:35 p.m. on Saturday, May 5, several hours before the eta Aquarid meteor showers peak.
The eta Aquarids are are bits of dust from Halley's Comet, which last visited Earth in 1986. That cosmic wanderer is now way beyond the orbit of Uranus, but it left behind streams of dust which the Earth passes through each May and October (Above: near Manzanita at night: full moon reflects in a pool).
“As temperatures warm and the ground thaws, flowers are abundant and in bloom by this time,” Todd said. “Thus, May's moon is called the Flower Moon; but it can also be called the Corn-Planting or Milk Moon. When we look at the full moon on Saturday, it will be just 221,705 miles away making it the Moon's closest approach to Earth in 2012.”
Before 2011, the comparable biggest/closest full Moon was March of 1993. Todd said presumably the next comparably large full Moon will be 18.6 years from then, sometime in late 2029.
Above: Super Harvest Moon from September 2010
This Super Full Moon – sometimes called the Supermoon – happens because of what's called perigee, when the moon gets the closest to the Earth along its oval-shaped orbit. Apogee is the opposite – when the moon is at its farthest point away.
This time around, the Supermoon will be 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter, which will make for some astonishing effects at night along the Oregon coast. Given the weather forecast, it's likely viewing conditions will be quite clear for beach towns like Cannon Beach, Seaside, Tillamook, Manzanita, Pacific City, Lincoln City, Newport and Yachats. Those along the Oregon coast and in Portland probably won't miss a thing.
The eta Aquarids may be a bit more difficult, however. (See Oregon Coast Weather )
The northern hemisphere won't get quite as many as the southern hemisphere. Though in this part of Oregon astronomers believe as many as 30 streaks per hour could be seen. SpaceWeather.com said the best time to look is in the hours just before sunrise, somewhere after 2:30 a.m., and look to the east around Aquarius and Pegasus. Both, however, will be quite low on the horizon, which will further limit the amount seen by the northern hemisphere.
Above: star and moon movement above Manzanita.
Earthsky.org said the moon will likely wreck that show, unless its path takes it far enough down the horizon later.
“The best you can hope for is a diminished display, with faint meteors occasionally visible against a bright sky background,” the publication said. “Or you might see a bright meteor or two streaking along in the supermoon’s glare, worth the wait.”
Some spectacular film footage of these in the last 24 hours is already available online at http://fireballs.ndc.nasa.gov/
For yet a third interstellar treat, two of the planets are making a striking show. Saturn is in the southeast, but Venus will be the brightest object in the sky – aside from the Moon – hanging out in the west.
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Keywords: Galaxy, moon, solar system, meteor showers, Venus, Saturn, Astronomy, Cannon Beach, lunar, moon, Yachats, Depoe Bay, Newport, Lincoln City, Oceanside, Astoria, Oregon coast, science.
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