Friday, August 31, 2007

Molly has blogged previously (see Aug. 29 'The Aurigid Meteor shower' and Aug 11 'The Perseids are Coming') on the subject of the "possible" meteor shower that will occur later this night, towards dawn tomorrow morning. If it does occur the shower will appear to originate from the constellation Auriga with a peak time at about 11:36 GMT. This will translate into a peak time of 4:36 PDT and slightly earlier in the central Pacific and Alaska. Auriga will be about two thirds up in the northeastern sky on the west coast at this time, but in Alaska and the central Pacific it will be considerably lower towards the horizon. This means that the shower will not be visible in east Asia because Auriga will not have risen at the peak time of the shower- and because the shower has a very short viewing time as compared to other annual meteor showers.
The possibility of an outstanding sight during this year's Aurigid time frame was first proposed 7 years ago by California astronomer Peter Jenniskens and Finnish amateur astonomer Esko Lyytinen. Jenniskens has since collaborated with Jeremie Vaubaillon of Caltech to produce a forecast of an extraordinarily intense meteor shower this night. Another forecast by astronomer Danielle Moser of NASA agrees with the timing but predicts a much less intense number of meteors observable. Only the event will tell which one is right.
The meteors from long period comets which are irregular in appearance are rather unique. Because the comets that produce them are such infrequent visitors to the inner solar system the meteors that they produce contain rather "pristine" materials from the early days of the solar system. They are low in sodium, often penetrate deeper into the atmosphere than usual and at higher speeds (producing more brilliant displays) . The colour of the meteors produced will give clues to their elemental composition. Past observations suggest that the remnants of "pristine cometary crust" will give a greenish hue to many of the meteors observed.
On August 11th Molly mentioned the 'Aurigid Meteor Shower Observing Campaign' that astronomers on the west coast of the USA are mounting to observe this once in a lifetime event. The people involved in this research are looking for the collaboration of amateur astronomers to supplement their own observations. To learn more about this campaign, to participate in the research or to generally learn more about the Aurigid meteor shower go to or see our August 11th post.
Happy viewing. Molly won't see this event, but good luck to all the people out in BC.
See also on this blog:
August 29: 'The Aurigid Meteor Shower'.
August 11: 'The Perseids Are Coming'

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