Skip to comments.Airborne Astronomers To Track Intense Meteor Shower (Tonight, 1-3-2008)
Posted on 01/03/2008 4:58:10 PM PST by blam
Airborne astronomers to track intense meteor shower
16:59 03 January 2008
NewScientist.com news service
The most intense meteor shower of the year hits Earth tonight. If the skies are clear and you live at high northern latitudes, then you could see dozens of Quadrantid meteors streaking over the pole.
Or you might spot a plane full of astronomers racing northward, trying to find out how this unusual meteor shower was created, and whether it is the shrapnel of a celestial explosion witnessed in the 15th century.
Like other meteor showers, the Quadrantids appear when Earth moves through an interplanetary stream of debris, which hits the upper atmosphere at more than 40 kilometres a second, vaporising to become the brilliant trails we see as shooting stars.
"It is our strongest annual shower, but one that is frustratingly difficult to observe," says Peter Jenniskens of NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, US. That's partly because of bad weather in the northern hemisphere at this time of year. And unless you live in the far north, the shower's radiant the point in the sky from which the meteors appear to radiate is below the horizon.
This year Jenniskens will be joining other astronomers on a plane festooned with cameras, which will get above the clouds and fly from Ames to the North Pole, keeping the Quadrantids in clear sight for 9 hours. By tracking the arrival rate of meteors over that time, they are hoping to discover when this stream of meteoroids was born.
Some meteoroid streams are created and maintained by active comets, which throw off bits of rock and soot as the Sun gradually evaporates their ices. But there is no active comet to supply fresh material to the Quadrantids.
(Excerpt) Read more at space.newscientist.com ...
Come from near the end of the handle of the Big Dipper. Been cloudy all day, but I will be up walking the dog as usual around midnight. We’ll see what happens. A quadrantid site (there is such a thing) suggests dressing warmly, which at -10 is likely even without the advice.
Sigh. I live in the Seattle area...
Well, I’m likely to be up late to begin with, but it’s ridiculously cold outside. So there’s a small chance I’ll brave the weather, if it’s clear.
According to PARI in Asheville NC
In 2008 the Quadrantids are predicted to reach a peak of about 120 meteors per hour at 1:40 a.m. EST on Friday, January 4. Successful observing of the Quadrantids can start about midnight and continue for several hours. One should observe from a clear, dark location with a good horizon. Look high in the northeast for meteors appearing to radiate out of a point between the constellations of Hercules the strong man and Boötes the herdsman. Binoculars or telescopes are not needed to observe meteors. This year we will have a waning crescent moon in the morning skies so moonlight will not interfere with observations of fainter meteors until moonrise about 4:30 a.m. when the sharply peaked Quadrantid meteor shower should be ending anyway.
I’d love to see them, but there are so many contrails overhead that they created a cloud layer that I can’t see through except in a few spots. Bummer...
Observing info at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/home/13003857.html
I’ll be outdoors as usual and if they are visible I’ll count them for a while. Maybe the aurora will be out too although that would interfere. Some polar satellites usually cross over, and there are a couple of new ones. Plenty to see if it’s clear enough.
The Clear Sky Clock gives pretty good forecasts of local observing conditions- you can find it at http://cleardarksky.com/csk/
Thanks for posting the link to the Clear Sky Clock. Very cool. I took my oldest kid to the top of Fremont Peak many years ago to watch the Leonids. It was really cool seeing the meteor shower from the top of the mountain. The CSC actually says there’s some light pollution up there, but it was a pretty dark place.
The CSC is geared to people who are serious observers; a lot of light pollution that laymen wouldn't notice can potentially ruin photographs. Because I'm just a "tag-along" astronomer (I pay the membership dues so that I can go out to the observatory and look through scopes that others have set up), any night without clouds or haze is fine by me. Also, our observatory is out in the country near Lake Huron so it's worth the ride up even if it's cloudy :-D
Sorry, but there’s no way you can convince me that stones fal- [bonk!]