Tuesday, August 02, 2011

webspotting 22 - IMO

As published in the Aug/Sep 2011 issue of SCOPE, the newsletter of the RASC Toronto Centre. Republished here with permission.


For the last 2 years, I have visited the Carr Astronomical Observatory to enjoy the Perseid Meteors display. On both occasions, on top of Blue Mountain, we had excellent conditions and a good number of members present which made for a fun and social evening. It proved particularly amusing being near Tony Horvatin when he spots a meteor. He could be an announcer for World Cup soccer! He really gets into it.

I've been interested in meteor observing for many years. It was around 1980 that I first learned formally of showers and their clockwork frequency. That is when I first stumbled across the 1979 edition of Astronomy Data Book by Robinson and Muirden in my high school library (a book I eventually bought). The tome listed about a dozen showers by their radiant point, noted the start and end dates, as well as the date the shower would peak, and the number per hour. Occasionally there would be an additional remark such as "Yellow coloured fireballs."

In the days of paper day timers and paper calendars, at the beginning of the year, I would note all the showers with high rates. Now, in digital calendars, I use repeat features.

It was with a degree of disappointment that I learned that this year's Perseids meteor shower will be spoiled, around the peak, by a full Moon. Boo!

Still, our reliable solar system rolls on. We, on our little blue planet, continue to fall headlong into old comet dust. There are many other showers to enjoy, all year 'round. One might say that July and August is the high-water mark...

Alpha-Capricornids, 10/hr, Jul 15-Aug 25, peaks Aug 1
Delta Aquarids, 36/hr, Jul 12-Aug 12, peaks Jul 29
Iota-Aquarids, 13/hr, Jul 15-Aug 25, peaks Aug 5
Perseids, 90/hr, Jul 25- Aug 18, peaks Aug 13
delta Aquarids, 20/hr, Jul 12-Aug 12, peaks Jul 28
Capricornids, 15/hr, Jul 10-Aug 5, peaks Jul 25

And if you're down under:
Pisces-Australids, 14/hr, Jul 15-Aug 20, peaks Jul 30

These showers are the old "classic" ones. They are well-defined and very consistent. Still, everything is in flux, always changing. We live in a variable Universe. Of the 20 million small objects that collide with the Earth's atmosphere every day, we are learning of new showers.

The International Meteor Organization is a great web site to monitor for updates, tips and articles on all things meteoric. Surf into http://www.imo.net/ for more information. To update your agenda, note the 2011 Shower Calendar. Happy meteor spotting!

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