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Sunday, August 12, 2012

August Meteor Showers!

And I can't see them AGAIN this year.  Its all overcast.  I'm a bit conflicted by that.  First, the clouds are there because we got a decent rainfall this evening, and we sure needed THAT!  1 1/4" of rain in the past 2 days, and that's about the best since April.  Second, the temperature dropped to 70 (briefly) during the daylight, and I haven't felt THAT outside for months.

But I love astronomy.  When I moved here 26 years ago, I could occasionally see the milky way, and seeing the constellations was routine.  Over the years, light pollution and general haze has eliminated the milky way from home "seeing" (astronomese for "good viewing) , and it is a rare night when the constellations are clear.  About 2 months ago, I was taking the recycling bins to the street when I realized that the stars were quite visible.  I don't know "why", just one of those things.

I stayed out for an hour just "seeing".  I even noticed one star that shouldn't have been there in a constellation.  I went to the computer to see if there was a new nova star, and discovered it was Jupiter.  So I went back out and looked around a bit.  Sure enough, I found Mars and another planet (Saturn I suppose, because Venus would have been closer to the sun).

It made me think back to a camping trip to Canada in 1980 (or thereabouts).  The first night, the stars shone madly and the milky way was vivid.  The other nights were overcast.  Well, at least I saw that one night.

Can you imagine what the night sky must have looked like "only" a few centuries ago?  Absolutely ablaze with stars!  No wonder our ancestors saw images among them, there were SO MANY more stars visible.  I envy that so much.

But to get back to the beginning (meteor showers, remember?), tonight was the night to see the Perseid meteor shower.  And it is predicted to be one of the better years for it (about 100 meteors per hour).  I won't see it, and it is probably near it peak about know.  I am covered with clouds...

There are only a few major meteor showers each year, and even those have really good years only every few/many years. 

Sorry, that's a bit confusing.  We see meteor showers at the same times every year because the Earth passes through the same point as some cometary debris orbit at the same time every year.  Meaning that the cometary debris that we call meteors intersects Earth orbit the same time every year, but the debris is not spread out along the orbit uniformly.  So some years, we hit denser patches of debris than in other years.  Those times can be spectacular.  But you can't see them if there are clouds; and this year, for me, there are clouds.

You know what frustrates me most?  MOST years, the sky is overcast here on the best meteor nights.  I feel cursed sometimes.  Its all random, of course, but I still fell unlucky about meteor showers.  I'll have to go look at OTHER people's images of the meteors tomorrow on websites.  Well, at least there is that.  But it's not the same as real seeing.  And I miss real seeing...


Katie Isabella said...

Here as well. Almost 100% of the time, it is overcast or raining. It's a curse!

Katnip Lounge said...

We had almost 0.4" of rain last night, which was SO needed...but curses, no meteors! The best viewing I've ever had was in the Caribean Ocean, and on the south end of the Big Island on Hawaii.
I loved your creativity analogy! Depression as a black hole and creativity the gamma rays of energy shooting out. WONDERFUL. I intend to steal this.

Mariodacatsmom said...

Loved this education on the heavens. We didn't see it well here either - nor do we most years. Too many city lights even tho we live on the fringe of our city. We have viewed beautiful stars tho when camping, It's so beautiful, and I have visions of what it must have been centuries ago.

The Cat From Hell said...

Being a meteor freak, I braved the cougars and the bears patrolling our area and layed on our back lawn last night to watch the best shower -- last night was a bust! Oh yeah there were the little - out of the corner of your eye streaks, but in the 2 hours I was laying on the lawn, only 2 decent streaks and no really intense showers. Hope you feel better for your weather.
Nellie's Mom

Tina T-P said...

Cloudy here too - darn - I notice the same problem with more haze and ambient light here now than when we moved out here "to the country" 17 years ago - but it's still better than living in town. T.

William said...

It was overcast here, too. And if I really want to see more than a handful of stars, I have to drive at least 70 miles into nowhere. I did that in March and I wasn't disappointed at all, only in the fact that I can't see squat in ABQ with all its lights.

William's mom.