A Night For Shooting Stars - 27 East

Arts & Living

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A Night For Shooting Stars

authorStaff Writer on May 14, 2022

On Monday, May 23, at 7 p.m., Hamptons Observatory will present a free, virtual lecture by Emmy Award winning meteorologist Joe Rao who will speak about a new, very prolific meteor shower that he predicted and expects to occur on the night of May 30 into the early morning hours of May 31, 2022. Entitled “The Night of Shooting Stars with Joe Rao,” this virtual event will be co-hosted by the South Fork Natural History Museum in Bridgehampton.

While many knew Rao as News 12’s chief meteorologist and science editor, amateur astronomers are familiar with him as an avid sky watcher.

“Over the years, everyone in the astronomy community on Long Island has been grateful to Joe for his participation and updates on what’s going on in the skies above,” said Hamptons Observatory’s Executive Director, Donna L. McCormick. “We’re all very excited about Joe’s prediction and look forward to the possibility of witnessing a spectacular event, weather permitting, of course.”

In 1995, Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann-3 broke apart in dramatic fashion. Now a number of meteor dynamicists have confirmed what Rao predicted last year: A stream of particles ejected during the comet’s disruption may yield a dramatic meteor outburst at the end of May 2022.

The predictions are uncertain because no one knows for sure how fast the concentrated dust swarm left 73P’s disintegrating nucleus. But there is a chance that we could see meteors briefly fall at rates numbering in the scores or maybe even in the hundreds per hour. In this presentation, Rao will explain why late on the night of May 30 into the morning of May 31 we may be able to see more shooting stars than we’ve seen in our entire life.

However, as Rao himself said about the figures involved in such a prediction, “Calculations are fraught with uncertainties that could mean the difference between all or nothing … In the best-case scenario, we could see a bevy of slow, bright meteors, glowing with a ruddy or orange tint, falling at the rate of scores or even many hundreds per hour. On the other hand, perhaps Earth will encounter very few comet particles or even none at all. Let’s hope nature is in a ‘show-off mode’ that night.”

The “shooting stars” should appear to emanate from the brilliant orange star Arcturus in the constellation of Bootes, the Herdsman. To find it, the stars in the handle of the Big Dipper make a curve that is easily translated into a smooth arch; continue that imaginary arc about the length of the Big Dipper and you will come to Arcturus. In the Northeast, the shower should reach its peak at 1 a.m. on the morning of May 31.

In addition, this month there will also be a total eclipse of the moon. Observers on the East End will be able to watch the entire eclipse, which begins at 10:28 p.m. on May 15 and ends 1:56 a.m. on May 16. Totality will be longer than usual, lasting about 1 hour, 25 minutes, starting at 11:29 p.m.

To register for this free, virtual talk, visit rao_talk.eventbrite.com.

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