Saturday, 8 August 2020
Friday, 7 August 2020
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The main event in the sky this week is the Perseid meteor shower. You can see a few meteors per hour any night in a clear, dark sky, but the number increases greatly when Earth passes through a trail of pebbles and dust left by a comet that makes frequent orbits around the Sun. The pebbles left by comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle in its 133 year orbit are quite large at a few centimetres, and they enter our atmosphere at a high relative velocity of 60 km/s (Earth travels at 30 km/s). Therefore, they can be very bright. The Perseids will seem to be coming from a point between the constellations Perseus and Cassiopeia, which are at their highest in early morning. You will see fewer in the evening but they tend to be long and bright.
Meteors, also called shooting stars or falling stars, are the streaks of light created when pebbles enter the atmosphere at an altitude of about 100 kilometres, and those particles from comets disintegrate before they reach an altitude of 50 kilometres. Many meteors are faint and easily made invisible by moonlight and light pollution. This year the Perseid shower occurs near the third quarter Moon phase, which rises after midnight and will interfere somewhat with the morning viewing.
Although a dark sky is preferred for watching meteors, many can still be enjoyed from an urban or suburban area. Get comfortable in a chair, have extra clothes or blankets if you plan to stay long as it can get very chilly, and select a patch of sky that is free of clouds and light. It is better to keep Perseus to your side rather than look in that direction because the meteors will look more spectacular, covering a longer distance. Under ideal conditions one might see 60-100 Perseids, but be very happy if you see about 20-30 per hour on the peak night or fewer a day before or after.
This Week in the Solar System
Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 6:10 am and sunset will occur at 8:38 pm, giving 14 hours, 28 minutes of daylight (6:17 am and 8:41 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 6:19 am and set at 8:27 pm, giving 14 hours, 8 minutes of daylight (6:25 am and 8:30 pm in Saint John).
The Moon passes below Mars this Sunday morning and it is at third quarter on Tuesday. Jupiter and Saturn are at their best for observing in late evening. Telescope users might see Jupiter’s Red Spot around 10 pm Monday and 11:30 pm on Wednesday, while Saturn’s rings are a memorable sight. Mars rises around 11 pm and offers telescopic views of its south polar ice cap. Venus is at its greatest elongation from the Sun on Wednesday, and Mercury has moved too close to the Sun to be observed. The Perseid meteor shower is at its best on the night of August 11/12 but the nights before and after will also be rewarding if the weather cooperates.
With astronomy meetings and outreach activities on hold, you can watch the local Sunday Night Astronomy Show at 8 pm, and view archived shows, on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAEHfOWyL-kNH7dBVHK8spg
Questions? Contact Curt Nason at email@example.com.
Thursday, 6 August 2020
NATURE MONCTON INFORMATION LINE, August 06, 2020 (Thursday)
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Info Line # 506-384-6397 (384-NEWS)
** Georges Brun was surprised to see a male SURF SCOTER [Macreuse à front blanc] sailing upriver after the Bore arrival on the Petitcodiac River on Wednesday. Georges spotted a shorebird fly down from up river and land in the silty bank to show some interesting field marks. All the soiling from the silt made it a challenge to identify with certainty but Gilles Belliveau looked at it closely and points out several features that likely make it a SPOTTED SANDPIPER [Chevalier grivelé]. The bill in one photo looks curved, but I suspect it is a photographic blip. It was an unexpected spot to see a Spotted Sandpiper. Am including several of Georges’ photos as some interesting field marks show.
** Brian Stone noticed an unusual insect occurrence in his driveway and front yard on Wednesday afternoon. As he stepped out into his driveway he was surprised to see a stream of ants rushing across the driveway from an undeveloped lot next door and crossing into and across the front lawn of the house. This stream was about 40 cm (16 in) wide evenly across its length and the ants were busily rushing back and forth along this line carrying undeveloped larvae for what reason he did not know. A little bit of searching, aided by his phone identification capabilities, led him to this information on Wikipedia (and similar information on BugGuide) about Slave-making Ants in the "Formica sanguinea" group. Something Brian had never witnessed or known about before. The information is quoted below
From Wikipedia … “Slave-making ants are brood parasites that capture broods of other ant species to increase the worker force of their colony. After emerging in the slave-maker nest, slave workers work as if they were in their own colony, while parasite workers only concentrate on replenishing the labor force from neighboring host nests, a process called slave raiding.
The slave-making ants are specialized to parasitize a single species or a group of related species, and they are often close relatives to their hosts, which is typical for social parasites. The slave-makers may either be permanent social parasites (thus depending on enslaved ants throughout their whole lives) or facultative slave-makers. The behavior is unusual among ants but has evolved several times independently.” Brian captured a video of the event but comments it just does not capture the drama of the real event. Take a look at the attached site:
Brian and Annette also visited Clarence Cormier in Cassie Cape to tour his naturally bountiful land and enjoyed the views and wildlife present there. Many bird species were active but only the RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD [Colibri à gorge rubis] was kind enough to pose for a portrait along with one of two warm looking PORCUPINES [Porc-épic d'Amerique]. Brian also photographed a mushroom there with pink gills and white body that could well be a FIELD MUSHROOM. A black spore print would have made it more certain.
Earlier the night before a large CRANEFLY posed for an image on Brian’s back window and he also noted the gills on his YELLOW-SPOTTED SALAMANDER [Salamandre maculée] larva had shrunk to nubs over the last two or three days. It might soon be time for drier land in the tank.
** Not many birders are EUROPEAN STARLING [Étourneau sansonnet] fans but one that visited our Moncton yard really caught our eye. It is a young of the year bird and in very crisp teenage plumage with all natal molting complete. The dark feathers on the wing with the rusty scalloped edges are quite noticeable as is the dark patch behind the eye.
I am also attaching a photo of a COMMON WOOD NYMPH BUTTERFLY [Satyre des prés] enjoying that ever popular nectaring plant blooming THISTLE.