The Marie Drake Planetarium

Where the stars always shine in Juneau, AK

Newspaper Articles 1997

Meteor shower to streak across night sky

November 10

If the skies are clear this weekend, look for showers.

Skywatchers should be able to see the Leonoid meteor shower to the southeast, expected to be at its most visible between Saturday and Monday, according to local astronomers. The meteors are the remnants of a comet passing by the Earth's orbit every 33 years.

Every time the Earth goes around the sun in its orbit it passes through the debris field,'' said Michael Orelove, a volunteer for the Marie Drake Planetarium.

The debris comes from comet Tempel Tuttle, said Nancy Waterman, another planetarium volunteer. She said the background of the shower is the constellation Leo, which is how it derives its name.

``Over the next few days, if you can see the apparent path of the sun across the sky, that's probably the path everything takes across our sky and Leo's kind of on that path,'' she said.

The best viewing time will be in the early morning hours of Nov. 17, she said.

``The full moon is on Nov. 14, so if we do have a clear sky there will be a little bit of moon glow that will get in the way,'' she said. But by early morning ``it will be off into the western sky.''

Planet watchers can also look for Saturn high in the southern sky and - earlier in the evening Jupiter in the southwestern portion.

About 10 to 15 meteors an hour will likely be visible during the shower, she said. That pales in comparison to the show expected next year or the following, when the comet passes by Earth again and replenishes the debris.

``There have been times when people have seen 1,000 meteors per minute, just for a short period of time,'' she said.

December treat for stargazers
December 3

The planets are finally in alignment, so it seems only fitting Juneau probably won't see them because of continuous rain.

As if that isn't bad enough, astrologers predict the crowded planets will make many people a lot more stressed out than usual.

All eight of the solar system's other planets are in an uneven line in the early evening sky this week, a display that won't be seen again for 100 years.

But Nancy Waterman, a volunteer for the Marie Drake Planetarium, said she and other local stargazing friends aren't getting too excited.

``It sounds like the long-term weather report is for cloudy weather,'' she said today. ``I don't think anybody's put a lot of thought in it.''

Besides being in a rainforest, Juneau also has all those mountains blocking the low southern horizon where the planets can be spotted. Some of the lower planets, such as Pluto and Mercury, might be blocked even if the sky is clear.

``What it takes around here is going to be an area where you have a southwesterly view without mountains and that's pretty hard to find,'' Waterman said. ``The only place from which I've seen Mercury is Auke Bay behind the Auke Bay lab right down by the shoreline.''

The planets, accompanied by a crescent moon, are visible through Monday.

National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Truitt said skies might clear briefly during the next several days, but residents shouldn't count on it.

``I would say you're looking at rain likely right on through the whole period of time,'' he said.

Even if Juneau residents can't see them, it may have a profound effect on their lives, said Virginia Dayan, an Anchorage resident who has been an astrologer for the past 25 years. She said several of the planets and the moon are lined up within Capricorn and their movement means change is coming to people born under that sign (Dec. 22 to Jan. 19). Luckily, the planets are fast-moving ones, such as Mercury, so the changes should only apply to short-term situations.

``Capricorns are going to feel pressured ... but they'll be pressured in everyday life,'' she said. ``People will be walking around saying `What's happening to me?'''

People born under Aquarius, from Jan. 20 to Feb. 19, also can expect changes because some planets are crowding their sign, but they're better at handling it, Dayan said.

Maureen Alyea, another Anchorage astrologist, sees potentially stressful times for the general population because of the alignment, especially in business and authority-type situations.

``I would tell everyone to please resist overreacting, because there could be problems with bosses and authority figures,'' she said. ``Reaction is the only power we have. Don't react to situations and we have a better chance of keeping them normal.''

But Alyea said she doesn't see any long-term worries from the situation.

``It's definitely not the end of the damn world,'' she said.