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Home / Articles / News / Local News /  Shots in the Dark
Leonid_Meteor_Storm_1833

Shots in the Dark

Now that the election’s over...look up!

November 7, 2012, 12:00 am

 Although SFR went to press before the results of a heated 2012 election had been finalized, we have a recommendation nonetheless: Get over it. Move on. Look up! 


Rain isn’t common in Santa Fe during the cool autumn months, but clear skies provide a perfect backdrop for a different kind of shower. 


Peaking on Oct. 20-21, the Orionids meteor shower shot streaks of glowing dust, ice and debris—fragments separated from Comet Halley—across the dark night sky. The moon set around midnight during the peak of the shower, turning the sky into a quiet celestial canvas for nature’s light show. 


A second, more dispersed autumn shower, the South Taurids, fell on Nov. 4-5. The waxing moon set in the evening hours, leaving behind a sky sprinkled with the pinhole light of stars and planets—and the bright streaks of shooting meteors.


Two more showers are forecast for the near future: The modest North Taurids peak on Nov. 11-12, and the famous Leonids on Nov. 17. 


The North Taurids meteors are slow and bright, few and far between. The best time to spot them is after midnight, when the moon—which will not rise until after dawn on Nov. 12—leaves the sky free of its glow. 


The Leonids—dust and ice particles left behind by the comet Tempel-Tuttle—shoot forth from the constellation Leo, their radiant point. These meteors are at their most intense after midnight until the twilight hours just before dawn. As on the peak night of the South Taurids, the waxing crescent moon sets in the early evening hours of Nov. 17, leaving the Cimmerian sky dark and clear for the shower that has produced some of the most dazzling meteor storms in history. 


The Leonids are best viewed from dark northern locations, so the night of Nov. 17 may be the perfect time to bundle up, head into the Sangre de Cristos and hunker down beneath a sky of shooting stars.


 

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