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‘Why blood moon was not visible in some areas’

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Shooting stars (Perseid meteors)… expected to peak on August 12/13 Credit: Pete Lawrence for The Telegraph UK


*Space agency says thunderclouds obscured rare total lunar eclipse for most of southern Nigeria
*More celestial spectacle expected as ‘shooting star’ reaches peak activity night of August 12/13

Stargazers across the globe were treated to the longest celestial event of the 21st century last Friday as a lunar eclipse turned the moon bright red.But most Lagos residents and people in Southern Nigeria were disappointed they could not behold the latest celestial spectacle that graced the skies on the night of Friday July 27, 2018 between 6.44pm and 9.21pm.Why was the blood moon or rather the total lunar eclipse not visible to all Nigerians as promised by the National Space Research Development Agency (NASRDA)?

Nigerians were not the only ones disappointed. According to The Guardian UK, United Kingdom (UK)-based astronomers were left disappointed because, after weeks of uninterrupted sunshine, thunderstorms and banks of cloud obscured the skies, dashing many people’s hopes of catching a glimpse of the “blood moon”.However, those in Northern Nigeria enjoyed the best views, as confirmed by the head media and corporate communications of the NASRDA, Dr. Felix Ale.

Also, the United States National Aeronautic Space Agency (NASA) reported that those in east Africa, the Middle East, India and the westernmost tip of China had good views of the total lunar eclipse. It noted that those in the rest of Africa, Europe, other parts of Asia, Australia and the eastern tip of South America were still able to see something of the moment, while only the United States (U.S.) and most parts of North America were left out.

According to the NASRDA, the lunar eclipse, which lasted about 103 minutes, saw the “total” phase end at 9.21pm, as the moon passed through the Earth’s darkest shadow and took on a red sheen.“The spectacle was covered by heavy clouds, which spoiled any chance of a glimpse for people in Lagos and most part of South West Nigeria. But it was visible in Abuja and most parts of the North,” Ale told The Guardian.

Ale, however, said Nigerians have another opportunity to see the blood moon, the next total lunar eclipse, on January 21, 2019.Anyways, Nigerians have another opportunity of sighting a celestial spectacle, shooting stars/Perseid meteor, this August.

The Telegraph UK and Space.com reported that the annual shooting stars (Perseid meteor) shower reaches peak activity on the night of August 12/13 and, if the weather is kind, this year’s display could be something to remember. Two things can conspire to ruin a meteor shower: the weather and the Moon. This year new Moon occurs on August 11 and this natural light polluter will be absent during the Perseid’s peak period. Perseid meteors occur when our planet passes through the dust strewn around the orbit of comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. Earth first enters this region around the middle of July when the dust density is low and just a few meteors are seen.

“The densest part of the stream is reached on the night of 12/13 August. Earth then moves out through the other side of the stream and rates drop off once again. We fully exit the stream around the third week of August. The most impressive rates tend to occur in the week of August 9-16.”

According to NASA and the Journal of the International Meteor Organization, the Perseids are prolific meteor showers associated with the comet Swift–Tuttle. The Perseids are so called because the point from which they appear to hail (called the radiant) lies in the constellation Perseus.

The name is derived in part from the word Perseidai, a term found in Greek mythology referring to the sons of Perseus.A near-Earth perspective of its orbit, the radiant of the Perseid meteor shower, and the orbit of the shower’s parent comet, 109P/Swift-Tuttle, to show their spatial relationships on August 12 00:00 UTC. The Perseid debris cloud is fairly wide (~0.1 AU), filling the frame.

The stream of debris is called the Perseid cloud and stretches along the orbit of the comet Swift–Tuttle. The cloud consists of particles ejected by the comet as it travels on its 133-year orbit. Most of the particles have been part of the cloud for around a thousand years. However, there is also a relatively young filament of dust in the stream that was pulled off the comet in 1865, which can give an early mini-peak the day before the maximum shower. The dimensions of the cloud in the vicinity of the Earth are estimated to be approximately 0.1 astronomical units (AU) across and 0.8 AU along the latter’s orbit, spread out by annual interactions with the Earth’s gravity.

The shower is visible from mid-July each year, with the peak in activity between 9 and 14 August, depending on the particular location of the stream. During the peak, the rate of meteors reaches 60 or more per hour. They can be seen all across the sky; however, because of the shower’s radiant in the constellation of Perseus, the Perseids are primarily visible in the Northern Hemisphere.

As with many meteor showers the visible rate is greatest in the pre-dawn hours, since more meteoroids are scooped up by the side of the Earth moving forward into the stream, corresponding to local times between midnight and noon, as can be seen in the accompanying diagram. While many meteors arrive between dawn and noon, they are usually not visible due to daylight. Some can also be seen before midnight, often grazing the Earth’s atmosphere to produce long bright trails and sometimes fireballs. Most Perseids burn up in the atmosphere while at heights above 80 kilometres (50 mi).


In this article:
Felix AleNASRDA
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