[Fwd: Leonids Meteor Shower Nov.16-18]

David V. Rogers dvrogers@bellatlantic.net
Tue, 10 Nov 1998 13:12:33 -0500

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From: Dick Rucker <rrucker@clark.net>
Subject: Leonids Meteor Shower Nov.16-18
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>Date: Mon, 9 Nov 1998 21:30:20 -0700 (MST)
>From: Paul Harden <pharden@aoc.nrao.edu>
>To: "Low Power Amateur Radio Discussion" <qrp-l@Lehigh.EDU>
>Subject: Leonids Meteor Shower Nov.16-18
>X-To: qrp-l@lehigh.edu

>Since I work at an observatory, I have been getting email inquiring
>about the upcoming Leonids Meteor Shower (Storm?) this year.  So will
>answer a few common questions here.
>First, we will not be observing the meteor shower with our radio
>telescopes.  Our instruments are used for imaging, primarily, and
>the current configuration of the VLA is for a half-power beamwidth
>of about 20 arc seconds ... way too small to hope to catch a meteor
>flying through.  This is the stuff optical observatories, and of course
>amateur astronomers (like you and me) are more suited for.
>The Earth does not travel around the sun every year in the same exact
>orbit.  On a given date, say Nov. 17th, one year we may be a bit closer
>to the sun, the next year a bit further way, some years slightly above
>the galactic plane, others years slightly below it.
>All meteor showers are the result of the Earth plowing through the
>debris field of a comet.  This is why meteor showers occur on the same
>date every year and hence, can be predicted.  One such periodic comet
>has left it's debris trail that we cross every year around Nov. 16-18th.
>The unique thing about this comet, and the Leonid showers that result,
>is this comet at one time left a huge, dense "cloud" of debris that the
>Earth's orbit takes us through about every 33 years.  When we pass 
>through this dense cloud, the meteor display can be dramatic, going
>from the average of 50 per hour (most years) to over 1,000 per hour.
>The best year was 1833, where it was estimated at over 10,000 per hour
>and no less than dozens of meteorites could be seen per second.
>There is lots of controversy amongst astronomers as to whether this
>year, or next year, will be the better display.  There is also plenty
>of controvery as to this year ... what the maximum meteors per hour
>will be and WHEN it will be at it's peak.
>Here is the best synopsis I can find based on the modeling done by
>NASA/JPL and the Griffith Observatory.
>THE BEST TIME to view the meteor shower will be after midnite until
>early morning on Tuesday, November 17th, no matter where on Earth you
>are.  It takes about 32-36 hours to travel through the debris field,
>so enhanced meteoric activity will be seen during this window over
>at least one Earth rotation.
>THE PEAK EVENT is expected to be on November 17th at around 1900 UTC.
>This obviously does not favor the US/VE, but rather eastern Europe to
>the Pacific Rim.  However, the peak, as calculated by different
>astronomers and observatories varies greatly, as much as 12 hours
>either side of this.
>FOR THE U.S. - the highest probability of maximum meteors is in the
>predawn hours of Tuesday morning, Nov. 17th.  It is expected the peak
>will be viewed from the western U.S., across the Pacific, to eastern
>Asia, including Australia, and perhaps to central Europe.
>There is a strong possibility that this years meteor shower will be
>a dramatic one.  Thus, no matter where you live, I would suggest at
>least seeing what is happening above your QTH around midnight or
>after.  Even if not the "peak," the overall meteor count is expected
>to be many times above normal.  Some astronomers are even predicting
>a mild "meteor storm," which is a meteor every few seconds.  Furthermore,
>the velocity of these meteors is 44 miles/second, quite fast for
>meteors, which means large pieces of debris will make impressive
>bolides, burning bright green, and leaving a smoke trail.  The Leonids
>originate from the constellation Leo, which will be near the eastern
>horizon at midnite (and rises higher as the morning moves along),
>though most meteors will be seen coming from the eastern sky to
>above your head (the zenith).
>In my opinion, it would be an event worth watching out for.  It could
>be an impressive display.  But don't do anything heroic (like take the
>kids on a 100 mile jaunt to the country) for it.  If a nice display,
>the brighter meteorites should be visable from your yard, short of
>living across the street from a bright shopping mall or something.
>And if it does get dramatic or of storm quality, please post it to
>qrp-l so we don't miss it (tell us where you are located and the time).  
>Between this year and next, it's a 33 year opportunity to perhaps see a 
>unique cellestial show.  But if it's a dud, don't blame me (and if it's 
>great, I'll take the credit -hi).
>Decide for yourself if it's worth the effort to stay up late to see
>it, and how mad you'll be if you miss a 33 year event.
>72, Paul NA5N
>National Radio Astronomy Observatory
>Socorro, New Mexico
>We don't do meteorites.

Richard A. "Dick" Rucker
City of Fairfax, VA