Blog Archive

Ex-Hurricane Kate

Early this week attention focused on the first storm named by the Met Office and Met Eirann. “Abigail” was a typical winter Atlantic storm, one of many which would be expected to impact on the British Isles each year. The reason for naming storms is explained: [su_quote]As the UK and Ireland’s National Met Services, the Met Office and Met Éireann operate to maintain public safety through severe weather warnings and forecasts.

Chi Cygnids

A new meteor shower has been (provisionally) recognised and my meteor camera is playing a small part. Firstly, meteor observers around the world received a request that we should carefully check our data following a report of an “outburst”. This is not as spectacular as it sounds, simply that observers had noticed a number of meteors from the same part of the sky – too many to occur by chance.

Perseid Meteor and Space Station

  I stepped outside to watch the International Space Station pass over. I love to watch it. Its stately movement across the sky is beautiful, and thinking about what it means is important, I think. As it moved away eastwards I saw the sudden flash of a bright perseid meteor below it. This was a classic perseid. Blue colour and with a little explosion at the end. All over in a moment, but lovely.

Unusually slow meteor

The meteor camera I operate caught an unusually slow and long-lasting meteor at 00:18 on 1 August 2015. You can see what the camera saw in the video. Although the camera is noisy and grainy (it is cheap, basic, but sensitive CCTV camera) it gives a great sense of the meteor sweeping right across the sky (actually about 60 degrees). The meteor was also captured by several cameras in the UK Meteor Network and at least one in Nemetode, so the orbit can be calculated.

Solstice

The Sun has reached its highest point in the sky, marking the beginning of astronomical summer and the longest day of the year. Solstice means “standing still” – a day when the path of the Sun across the sky does not appear to be moving up or down. From now until 21 December, the Sun’s path will appear to move closer to the horizon and days will become shorter. This will happen in small amounts (a few minutes) especially at first, but the nights are already drawing in.

White Nights

We are coming into the season of “white nights” around the summer solstice, when there is no true darkness because the sun is close below the horizon still illuminating the atmosphere even though the sun itself is not visible. In effect, the sun has started rising as soon as it has finished setting. Of course, if you were to travel further north, this phenomenon is clearer and more dramatic until, at the arctic circle, there are times when the sun does not set at all.

Two bright meteors

Early this morning (22 Feb 2015) my camera recorded two bright meteors. These are not connected, but it after weeks of cloudy skies and very little activity when it was clear (this is the quietest time of the year for meteors) it is nice to have captured two impressive meteors. The first was at 00:28 (UTC). This is probably a February Eta Draconid meteor (see here for details of this recently discovered meteor shower) and had a magnitude of -3.

Birdsong

Songs allow birds to mark out a territory, which protects the resources they need to breed. The song is a challenge to other birds of the same species, but also prevents conflict because birds who do not wish to challenge for the territory can avoid it. Peak activity for birdsong in our climate is crepuscular – in the time around and after dawn and again in the evening. The dawn (and dusk) chorus, where birds of many species sing, is one of the glories of nature and one of the most powerful signs of spring.

Weather in 2014

The weather station began to operate in August so I do not have data on a full year yet, but I thought it might be useful to mention a few figures. Temperature The highest temperature was 27.2C at 15:00 on 18 September and the coldest was -5.1C at 07:33 on 31 December. 18 September was the only day when the temperature was above 27C (or 80F). The highest minimum was 15.

I captured sprites!

My meteor video system captured sprites early on the morning of 8 November 2014. Sprites are one form of transient luminous event or upper atmospheric lightning. In the upper atmosphere, very high above active thunderstorms, there are various forms of electrical discharge (sprites, elves, blue jets and even gnomes and pixies!) that are poorly understood and which were not even recognised until the last 20 years or so. In the last few years, it has been realised that video systems designed to capture meteors may also capture these fleeting phenomena which seem to occur at similar heights to meteors.