Rain Showers, Meteor Showers

November 17, 2015

meteor-shower-1833-grangerDrizzling showers this Tuesday afternoon on California’s north coast as the latest storm has dumped maybe half-an-inch or more since yesterday — mostly light rain, though, on occasion the wet stuff can pound down.
Forecasts are for a dry period tonight though tomorrow afternoon, then another system scheduled later Wednesday evening.
Par-for-the-course in ‘conveyor-belt‘ weather.

Due to our earthly showers and overcast skies, we’re most-likely in an inopportune location to eyeball some celestial showers —  tonight’s annual Leonid meteor shower (via Astronomy magazine): ‘Leonids strike Earth’s atmosphere at 44 miles [71 kilometers] per second, the fastest of any meteor shower.
The high speeds mean they produce more fireballs (meteors bright enough to cast a shadow), and some leave smoke trails that can last a number of seconds.
Usually, the meteors are white or bluish-white.’

(Illustration: ‘Meteor Shower, 1833,’ wood engraving by Adolf Vollmy, found here).

Although the rain might end early, northern California might be an online viewing area — observatory Slooh will be hosting a live broadcast starting at 5 this afternoon PST.

Details on the luminous Leonids from CBS News:

Leonid meteors are the fastest shooting stars, hitting Earth’s atmosphere at about 162,000 mph (261,000 km per hour), according to Space.com skywatching columnist Joe Rao — so the shower can produce spectacular and memorable fireballs.

The Leonids result when Earth plows through a trail of debris shed by Comet Tempel-Tuttle.
The comet is now just about as far from the sun as it gets during its roughly 33-year orbit, so there’s not a lot of debris for Earth to hit, Rao said.
(The highest concentrations of shed dust and gas tend to be near the comet as it orbits the sun.)
So, although some previous Leonid showers have produced tens of thousands of meteors per hour (in breathtaking events known as “meteor storms”), viewers should expect at most 10 to 20 per hour this year.
Another renowned meteor display is just around the corner: The Geminids, one of the most reliable and productive of the annual showers, will peak overnight on Dec. 13 to Dec. 14.

Compared to the past, however, supposedly this is going to be a year of lean Leonids.
Via Space.com:

This year finds Tempel-Tuttle (and the heaviest concentrations of its meteoroids) near the far end of its elongated orbit.
It crossed the orbit of Uranus in 2010, and in September 2014, the comet was as far from the sun as it can get — 1.84 billion miles (2.96 billion kilometers).
As a result, there won’t be much debris at the point in the comet’s orbit that Earth will be passing on Wednesday morning, but rather just bits and pieces likely loosened from the comet’s nucleus a millennium or two ago.
So, this year’s Leonids are expected to show only low activity — at best, 10 to 20 meteors per hour might be seen.
The moon will not pose a problem for viewers; Earth’s nearest neighbor will set before 10 p.m. local time Tuesday evening, leaving the rest of the night dark.

And showers above showers…

 

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