So the alpha Monocerotids were both amazing and a little disappointing.
I didn’t do a blast about them, for exactly the reason above. You see, the alpha Monocerotids are a new meteor shower. We’re just beginning to map out the debris field left behind by a comet – which is as of yet unidentified – and there was a prediction made based on what we know so far that there might be a burst of meteors visible late in the evening on November 21. Well, in the end, there were some meteors, but not the strong visible burst astronomers were hoping for. Nonetheless, we learned more about this particular debris field, and we now have additional data moving forward to predict what might happen next year around November 21.
Science can be like that. Sometimes we don’t have all the data, and we have to make a prediction based on only limited information. Sometimes, something happens that we really don’t expect! When these things happen, we often learn a great deal.
Astronomy has been like this for a long time. Thousands of years ago, early astronomers (who were also often astrologers) were frequently surprised by strange occurrences in the sky. The greatest struggle for these early observers was the interpretation of the event. What did this strange happening in the sky mean? The conclusions they drew were often not scientific, but they often had great significance to the people of their time.
At this time of the year, we prepare to celebrate the waning of the year, and the return of sunlight after the winter solstice. And in the Christian tradition, we share again the story of 3 ancient astronomers who saw something unusual in the sky and struggled to interpret it. Their interpretation involved Jewish prophecies and the birth of a king. It certainly did lead them on a most unusual journey!
Come to the Virginia Living Museum to learn more about the journey of the magi and ring in the holiday season! We will be hosting three Holiday Evenings in the Planetarium this season:
On November 30, we will show Star of Wonder: Mystery of the Christmas Star at 6:30pm and our delightful holiday laser light show Holiday Magic at 7:30pm.
On December 14, both of our holiday programs will be part of our monthly Stargazing and Laser Light Night! Besides Star of Wonder (6:30pm) and Holiday Magic (8:30pm), you can also enjoy Virginia Skies at 7:30pm, Laser Metallica at 10pm and Pink Floyd’s The Wall at 11:30pm. We will also be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Apollo 12! Special activities include a Live Spaceman photo op, Spacey Dress Up for Kids, and making planet ornaments! Come join us and snap a great space-themed holiday photo! And of course, enjoy a view through one of our many telescopes with FREE stargazing (weather permitting).
Finally, on December 21, we will once again show Star of Wonder: Mystery of the Christmas Star at 6:30pm and Holiday Magic at 7:30pm. We will also have planet ornament making, cookie decorating, and a hot chocolate and coffee bar. The planetarium lobby will open at 5:30pm so you can enjoy a hot drink and a sweet treat before your shows!
For each of these evenings, shows are $6 per person, or you may choose to see any two shows on the same night for $10 per person. Members always receive half-off the purchase of evening planetarium show tickets. For more information, see our website.
Have a wonderful and joyous holiday season!