East Hawaii News

Satellite to ‘Flare’ Near North Star Tonight

April 18, 2013, 1:16 PM HST
* Updated April 18, 1:18 PM
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There will be an extremely bright – albeit fleeting – new “star” in the sky tonight.

A satellite scheduled to pass near the North Star between 8:08 and 8:09 p.m. will reflect sunlight in a sudden burst, Honolulu Star-Advertiser science writer Jim Borg reported today.

The brief reflection will be courtesy of three broad antennae on the Iridium 64 satellite.

Viewing, of course, will be dependent on weather conditions.

Unfortunately, the National Weather Service is predicting mostly cloudy conditions tonight on the windward side of the Big Island, although a mostly clear night is forecast for leeward sections.

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To find the North Star, also known as Polaris, first find the Big Dipper, which will be in the northern half of the sky. A line formed from the two stars at the edge of constellation’s cup (from its bottom to its top) will point to Polaris, which is the star at the end of the handle of the Little Dipper.

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Polaris will be fairly low in the sky, about 21 degrees above the horizon.

The flaring satellite isn’t the only celestial event this month.

The Lyrid meteor shower peaks on Sunday night.

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However, the area of the sky from which the Lyrids originate, the constellation Lyra the Harp with the bright star Vega, won’t be appearing in Hawaii’s sky until next month, when it will be found at its northeast edge.

It is not known whether Lyrids’ meteors will radiate far enough to the west to be visible here.

Also, viewing this year will be hampered everywhere by a nearly full moon, which will drown out faint meteors and reduce the brightness of stronger ones.

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