Due to the current Corona Virus Pandemic, the observatory has suspended its operations until the end of September. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you. if conditions change we will update this notice.
Rocky Mountain National Park Astronomy Programs
Due to the current Corona Virus Pandemic, the Astronomy in the Park program has been suspended until next year. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you.
Observe the night sky with the help of a park ranger and expert volunteer astronomers. Rocky Mountain National Park offers weekly Astronomy in the Park programs from June through August. A traditional astronomy program is conducted in Upper Beaver Meadows every other week and includes a 20 to 30 minute interpretive presentation by park rangers followed by a night of observing put on by local astronomers and park volunteers. Dress warm, bring binoculars and a flashlight, and meet at the Upper Beaver Meadows Trail-head parking area.
This Months EPMO & EVAS Astronomy Lecture
The Estes Park Memorial Observatory (EPMO) in conjunction with the Estes Valley Astronomical Society (EVAS) hold a joint meeting every month that features a lecture on an astronomy topic followed by a viewing session. The meetings start at 7:PM and open with a short discussion of current EVAS business. A short presentation about a star currently visible in the night sky precedes the formal lecture for the evening. Invited speakers who work in the field of astronomy or aerospace generally give the lectures.
Estes Park Clear Sky Chart
Estes Park Sky Map (SkyMaps.com)
What’s Up for August 2020 From NASA JPL
The Skies over Longmont August 2020 by John Ensworth
April 22, 2018 before dawn, the Lyrids
The Lyrid meteor shower – April’s shooting stars – lasts from about April 16 to 25. About 10 to 15 meteors per hour can be expected around the shower’s peak on a dark, moonless night. Fortunately, in 2018, the waxing moon will set before the peak morning hours of the Lyrid meteor shower. The Lyrids are known for uncommon surges that can sometimes bring the rate up to 100 per hour. Those rare outbursts are not easy to predict, but they’re one of the reasons the tantalizing Lyrids are worth checking out. The radiant for this shower is near the bright star Vega in the constellation Lyra (chart here), which rises in the northeast at about 10 p.m. on April evenings. In 2018, we expect the peak viewing hours to take place in the dark hours before dawn April 22, at which time the moon will be out of the sky.
May 5, 2018 before dawn, the Eta Aquariids
This meteor shower has a relatively broad maximum – meaning you can watch it the day before and after the predicted peak morning of May 5. This shower favors the Southern Hemisphere, and is often the Southern Hemisphere’s best meteor shower of the year. In 2018, the bright waning gibbous moon will intrude. The radiant is near the star Eta in the constellation Aquarius the Water Bearer (click here for chart). The radiant comes over the eastern horizon at about 4 a.m. local time; that is the time at all locations across the globe. For that reason, the hour or two before dawn tends to offer the most Eta Aquariid meteors, no matter where you are on Earth. At northerly latitudes – like those in the northern U.S. and Canada, or northern Europe, for example – the meteor numbers are typically lower for this shower. In the southern half of the U.S., 10 to 20 meteors per hour might be visible in a dark sky. Farther south – for example, at latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere – the meteor numbers may increase dramatically, with perhaps two to three times more Eta Aquarid meteors streaking the southern skies (on a dark, moonless night). For the most part, the Eta Aquariids are a predawn shower. In 2018, the most meteors will probably rain down in the predawn sky on May 5 – but under the light of a bright waning gibbous moon! The broad peak to this shower means that some meteors may fly for a few days before and after the predicted optimal date.
Late July 2018, before dawn, the Delta Aquariids
Like the Eta Aquarids in May, the Delta Aquariid meteor shower in July favors the Southern Hemisphere and tropical latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere. But these meteors can be seen from around the world. This year, unfortunately, the full moon will obstruct on the show, especially as these faint meteors display very few fireballs or persistent trains The meteors appear to radiate from near the star Skat or Delta in the constellation Aquarius the Water Bearer. The maximum hourly rate can reach 15-20 meteors in a dark sky. The nominal peak is around July 27-30, but, unlike many meteor showers, the Delta Aquariids lack a very definite peak. Instead, these medium-speed meteors ramble along fairly steadily throughout late July and early August. An hour or two before dawn usually presents the most favorable view of the Delta Aquariids. At the shower’s peak in late July 2017, the rather faint Delta Aquariid meteors will have to contend with moonlight, as the full moon will be out all night long. But the new moon on August 11 means a dark sky for the August Perseids, one of the best showers for the Northern Hemisphere.
Late evening to dawn on August 11, 12 and 13, 2018, the Perseids
The Perseid meteor shower is perhaps the most beloved meteor shower of the year for the Northern Hemisphere. It’s a rich meteor shower, and it’s steady. Best of all, the slender waxing crescent moon will set at early evening, providing deliciously dark skies for this year’s Perseid meteors. These swift and bright meteors radiate from a point in the constellation Perseus the Hero. As with all meteor shower radiant points, you don’t need to know Perseus to watch the shower; instead, the meteors appear in all parts of the sky. These meteors frequently leave persistent trains. Perseid meteors tend to strengthen in number as late night deepens into midnight, and typically produce the most meteors in the wee hours before dawn. In 2018, the peak night of this shower will be totally free of moonlight. Predicted peak in 2018: the night of August 12-13 but try the night before and after, too, from late night until dawn.
October 8, 2018, nightfall and evening, the Draconids
The radiant point for the Draconid meteor shower almost coincides with the head of the constellation Draco the Dragon in the northern sky. That’s why the Draconids are best viewed from the Northern Hemisphere. The Draconid shower is a real oddity, in that the radiant point stands highest in the sky as darkness falls. That means that, unlike many meteor showers, more Draconids are likely to fly in the evening hours than in the morning hours after midnight. This shower is usually a sleeper, producing only a handful of languid meteors per hour in most years. But watch out if the Dragon awakes! In rare instances, fiery Draco has been known to spew forth many hundreds of meteors in a single hour. In 2018, watch the Draconid meteors at nightfall and early evening on October 8. Best of all, there’s no moonlight to ruin the show.
October 21, 2018 before dawn, the Orionids
On a dark, moonless night, the Orionids exhibit a maximum of about 10 to 20 meteors per hour. Unfortunately, in 2018, the bright waning gibbous moon will obscure this year’s production. But you might have a some moon-free time before dawn. (Click here to find out when the moon sets in your sky, remembering to check the moonrise and moonset box.) More meteors tend to fly after midnight, and the Orionids are typically at their best in the wee hours before dawn. These fast-moving meteors occasionally leave persistent trains. They sometimes produce bright fireballs, so watch for them to possibly overcome the strong moonlight. If you trace these meteors backward, they seem to come from the Club of the famous constellation Orion the Hunter. You might know Orion’s bright, ruddy star Betelgeuse. The radiant is north of Betelgeuse. The Orionids have a broad and irregular peak that isn’t easy to predict. This year, 2018, the drenching moonlight is sure to subdue this year’s Orionid meteor shower. Try an hour or two before dawn on October 21, at which time the moon might have set..
Late night November 4 until dawn November 5, 2018, the South Taurids
In 2018, the expected peak night of the South Taurid shower happens only a few days before new moon. That means no moonlight to spoil the show. The meteoroid streams that feed the South (and North) Taurids are very spread out and diffuse. That means the Taurids are extremely long-lasting (September 25 to November 25) but usually don’t offer more than about 5 meteors per hour. That is true even on the South Taurids’ peak night. The Taurids are, however, well known for having a high percentage of fireballs, or exceptionally bright meteors. Plus, the other Taurid shower – the North Taurids – always adds a few more meteors to the mix during the South Taurids’ peak night. Peak viewing for a few hours, centered around 1 a.m. local time on November 5. But the South and North meteors continue to rain down throughout the following week, with no to little interference from moonlight!
Late night November 11 until dawn November 12, 2018, the North Taurids
Like the South Taurids, the North Taurids meteor shower is long-lasting (October 12 – December 2) but modest, and the peak number is forecast at about 5 meteors per hour. In 2018, the waxing crescent moon shouldn’t really hamper the show, as it sets at early evening. The North and South Taurids combine, to provide a nice sprinkling of meteors throughout October and November. Typically, you see the maximum numbers at around midnight, when Taurus the Bull is highest in the sky. Taurid meteors tend to be slow-moving, but sometimes very bright. In 2018, watch from late night November 11 till dawn November 12. Fortunately, the waxing crescent moon shouldn’t jeopardize your enjoyment of this year’s 2018 North Taurid shower.
November 17 or 18, 2018, before dawn, the Leonids
In 2018, a bright waxing gibbous moon shines almost all night long on the peak night of the Leonid shower! However, the Leonids tend to produce the most meteors in the dark hour before dawn, at which time the moon will have set. (Click here to find out when the moon sets in your sky, remembering to check the moonrise and moonset box.) Radiating from the constellation Leo the Lion, the famous Leonid meteor shower has produced some of the greatest meteor storms in history – at least one in living memory, 1966 – with rates as high as thousands of meteors per minute during a span of 15 minutes on the morning of November 17, 1966. Indeed, on that beautiful night in 1966, the meteors did, briefly, fall like rain. Some who witnessed the 1966 Leonid meteor storm said they felt as if they needed to grip the ground, so strong was the impression of Earth plowing along through space, fording the meteoroid stream. The meteors, after all, were all streaming from a single point in the sky – the radiant point – in this case in the constellation Leo the Lion. Leonid meteor storms sometimes recur in cycles of 33 to 34 years, but the Leonids around the turn of the century – while wonderful for many observers – did not match the shower of 1966. And, in most years, the Lion whimpers rather than roars, producing a maximum of perhaps 10-15 meteors per hour on a dark night. Like many meteor showers, the Leonids ordinarily pick up steam after midnight and display the greatest meteor numbers just before dawn. In 2018, the Leonids are expected to fall most abundantly in the dark hour before dawn on November 17 or 18.
December 13-14, 2018, mid-evening until dawn, Geminids
Radiating from near the bright stars Castor and Pollux in the constellation Gemini the Twins, the Geminid meteor shower is one of the finest meteors showers visible in either the Northern or the Southern Hemisphere. In 2018, the rather wide waxing crescent moon staying out until mid-evening shouldn’t pose too much of a problem. The moon will set before the peak viewing hours of the Geminid shower, from late evening until dawn. The meteors are plentiful, rivaling the August Perseids. They are often bold, white and bright. On a dark night, you can often catch 50 or more meteors per hour. The greatest number of meteors fall in the wee hours after midnight, centered around 2 a.m. local time (the time on your clock no matter where you are on Earth), when the radiant point is highest in the sky. In 2018, watch the usually reliable and prolific Geminid meteor shower from mid-evening December 13 until dawn December 14.