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The Geminid Meteor Shower Rounds Off 2011

December 9, 2011 Leave a comment

2011 has been quite a year, both terrestrial and otherwise. This week sees the last of the big scheduled astronomical happenings of the year in the form of the Geminid meteor shower.

This shower is one of the yearly standbys along with the Perseids that are always sure to produce. The Geminids have a long peak centered on the morning of December 14th when an idealized Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) of up to 120 meteors per hour may be seen.

Problems will arise, however, from an 82% illuminated waning gibbous Moon in the adjacent constellation of Cancer. Rising roughly around 10PM local on the night of the peak, this makes for the worst possible Moon phase as it’ll be high and bright in the early AM hours, just as the meteor shower is getting into high gear. But as always, I wouldn’t let that stop you from looking!

Full Story: http://www.meteorwatch.org/2011/12/07/the-geminid-meteor-shower-rounds-off-2011/

New iPhone App Helps Skywatchers Count Meteors

December 9, 2011 Leave a comment

A new NASA handheld device application for mobile devices enables skywatchers to better track, count and record data about sporadic meteors and meteor showers anywhere in the world.

The “Meteor Counter” app enables astronomers — laypersons and experienced meteor hunters alike — to easily capture meteor observations with the software’s innovative, piano-key interface. As the user taps the keys, the app records critical data for each meteor, including time and brightness. Once each observing session ends, that data is automatically uploaded, along with observer information, to NASA researchers for analysis.

The new app was developed by Dr. Bill Cooke, the head of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. and Dr. Tony Phillips of space weather.com. “We developed the iphone app to be fun, and informative, but also to encourage going outside to observe the sky,” said Cooke. “Our hope is the app will be useful for amateur and professional astronomers – we want to include their observations in NASA’s discoveries – and have them share in the excitement of building a knowledge base about meteor showers.”

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/marshall/news/news/releases/2011/11-155.html

Leonids Meteor Shower 2011

November 17, 2011 Leave a comment

(Check out Steve Owens’ WordPress site, Dark Sky Diary, at http://darkskydiary.wordpress.com/)

On the night of 17/18 November 2011 the Leonids meteor shower reaches its peak. This annual performer is associated with Comet Temple-Tuttle, which orbits the Sun once every 33 years leaving a trail of debris as it goes. Once a year the Earth passes through this trail, and we see a meteor shower.

This year’s Leonids shower is hampered by the last quarter Moon which sits just to the right of the radiant of the Leonids, in Leo. Despite this there is good reason to observe the shower this year, as the International Meteor Organisation suggest there might be as many as three peaks of activity.

Full Story: http://darkskydiary.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/leonids-meteor-shower-2011/

Weekend Orionid Meteor Shower

October 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Earth is about to pass through a stream of debris from Halley’s comet, source of the annual Orionid meteor shower.  Forecasters expect more than 15 meteors per hour to fly across the sky on Saturday morning, Oct. 22nd, when the shower peaks.

“Although this isn’t the biggest meteor shower of the year, it’s definitely worth waking up for,” says Bill Cooke of the NASA Meteoroid Environment Office. “The setting is dynamite.”

Orionids are framed by some of the brightest and most beautiful constellations in the night sky. The meteors emerge from mighty Orion, the shower’s glittering namesake.  From there they streak through Taurus the Bull, the twins of Gemini, Leo the Lion, and Canis Major–home to Sirius, the most brilliant star of all.

This year, the Moon and Mars are part of the show.  They’ll form two vertices of a celestial triangle in the eastern sky on Saturday morning while the shower is most active; Regulus is the third vertex.  Blue Regulus and red Mars are both approximately of 1st magnitude, so they are easy to see alongside the 35% crescent Moon.  Many Orionids will be diving through the triangle in the hours before dawn.

Full Story: http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2011/20oct_orionids/

Draconid Meteor Shower Outburst

October 7, 2011 Leave a comment

On October 8th, Earth will pass through a network of dusty filaments shed by Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner. Forecasters expect the encounter to produce anywhere from a few dozen to a thousand meteors per hour visible mainly over Europe, northern Africa and the Middle East. The meteors will stream from the northern constellation Draco–hence their name, the “Draconids.”

Peak rates should occur between 1600 UT and 2200 UT (noon – 6 pm EDT) as Earth grazes a series of filaments nearly intersecting our planet’s orbit.

Full Story: http://spaceweather.com/archive.php?month=10&day=07&year=2011&view=view