From a Tempest to a Trickle: Prospects for the 2020 Leonid Meteor Shower

Leonid

Following the Leonid meteors in 2020.

We witnessed an amazing astronomical spectacle in the early morning skies over the Kuwaiti desert in November 1998. That year, the Leonid meteors put on a spectacular display, topping an estimated 1,000 meteors per hour near sunrise. On most years, however, the Lion whimpers with a few paltry meteors per hour, but once every 33 years or so, the mighty Leonids can roar with an amazing display reaching storm level proportions.

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Enter Comet S3 Erasmus: A Bright Comet For November

Comet C/2020 S3 Erasmus ‘may’ end out the cometary cavalcade for 2020.

Ready for one more comet for 2020? Thus far, this year has been a memorable one for comet watchers, with a steady stream of binocular fuzzball comets, crowned by the amazing sight of naked eye comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE this past summer. 2020 cometary alumni has also included comets F8 SWAN, P1 NEOWISE, and M3 ATLAS. Now, newly discovered Comet C/2020 S3 Erasmus takes center stage.

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Tales of Two Fall Comets: 88P Howell and M3 ATLAS

M3 Atlas

Two more comets – 88P Howell and M3 ATLAS – are worth scouting the sky for into November 2020.

If you’re like us, you’ve been at taking advantage of every clear night during quarantine to get out and observe the night sky. Thankfully, 2020 has thus far been a ‘comet year,’ with a steady string of binocular comets, led by bright comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE this summer. Fall is seeing another surge in comets topping +10th magnitude. Late October sees a brief dawn apparition of Comet C/2020 P1 NEOWISE and now, two other comets grace the dawn and dusk skies.

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Comet P1 NEOWISE Makes a Brief Late October Appearance

Comet P1 NEOWISE will make a brief dawn appearance for northern hemisphere observers in late October/early November.

So, how about Comet F3 NEOWISE this summer? 2020 saw the rapid appearance of one of the best northern hemisphere comets in recent memory, and the first good comet for us up north for the 21st century, as F3 NEOWISE graced early morning skies, and transitioned to a fine dusk apparition for an encore performance in the last half of July.

F3 NEOWISE reminded us that all comets are worth keeping tabs on… just in case. But wait, there’s more. The Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) caught another intriguing object on August 2, 2020 as part of its extended sky survey mission: Comet C/2020 P1 NEOWISE is set to become a fine binocular object in late October and early November.

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An Amazing Sky Mosaic Courtesy of Stellina…and a New Telescope from Vaonis

Stellina Mosaic

Check out this stunning new deep-sky panoramic, and a new light-weight ‘smartscope,’ courtesy of Vaonis.

Smartscopes are coming into their own as a viable and exciting new facet of amateur astronomy. We’ve recently reviewed Unistellar’s evScope, and Vaonis’s Stellina telescope. Both are compact, smartphone-controlled telescopes that put simple deep-sky imaging within the user’s grasp.

Now, Vaonis is upping their game. The company recently released a sneak peek at a new upgrade to Stellina’s capabilities, and a new Kickstarter for a compact, lightweight version of the telescope, known as Vespera.

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