Looking Forward to the Comet 209P/LINEAR Meteor Shower

209P Linear meteor shower
Radiant for 209P/LINEAR shower early this Saturday morning.

The weather is looking great here for the Comet 209P/LINEAR meteor shower. The Camelopardalids could produce as many as 200 meteors per hour early Saturday morning between 12:30 and 4 a.m., peaking around 2 a.m. CDT.

What is so neat about this shower is that it’s never been seen before, and the farther north you live in the viewing zone, the more meteors you are likely to see.

The last time I clocked meteors for the Astronomical League’s meteor certificate, I brought several copies of star charts of the radiant area of the sky, and as I saw meteors, I drew them on a chart and numbered them. On a separate sheet of paper, I made notes on brightness, color, speed, etc.

You can also do some real science by submitting your observations to the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers. All the information you need to work on your meteor certificate is available on the Astronomical League’s website.

After midnight tonight, you’ll find Amy and I perched on our lawn chairs facing north, with pencils and clipboards poised and ready. We’ll be busily adding hours towards our Astronomical League Meteor Program Certificate, (meteors or not) and having a great time. Hope you’re all out there, too!

Please be sure to write us and tell us about the meteors you see.

Lynn

The Omen

Last Saturday, a handful of us gathered for the Kroes Observing Weekend, which is an organized event hosted each year by one of our club members. It gives us a great opportunity to observe a dark western sky close to home. I didn’t take advantage of that horizon though (my neglected to-do list included every direction but west) but I still had a mission in mind.

After we arrived and gathered our stuff from the car, we hiked around the barn to get to the viewing area. It didn’t take me long to find him. The eastern horizon there is relatively flat, so it was easy to pick out my old friend Orion, already scraping his knees along the horizon an hour before midnight. I plopped my lawn chair down facing due east and spent the last hour of the day looking for Orionid meteors.

Although you can record meteors at any time for the Astroleague’s Meteor program, it seems to me that it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun if there wasn’t a full-blown meteor stream going on. After all, only one meteor out of six during that hour that was not an Orionid.

As I sat there looking in his general direction, it didn’t take long for that old anxiety to return. See, I have a big problem with Orion. Just like the Robins and the Daffodils announce the arrival of spring, in our neck of the woods, Orion’s appearance each fall heralds the beginning of a long, cold Wisconsin winter. I think the trees agree with me too, because once he gets his head and shoulders over the horizon, they immediately drop their leaves and go to sleep. I don’t blame them.

Come mid-winter, Orion hovers over my house like a frozen angel. In the last few weeks of the year, he fits quite nicely within the only open area in the dome of trees that covers our yard. I see him chuckling as I scurry from my frozen car to my frozen front door across my frozen ice-covered driveway. Real funny.

I suppose I could take solace in the knowledge that, in early spring, he’ll quietly disappear below the horizon and all the leaves will return and the ground will warm. But from here, that time looks a long way off. Brrrrr.

Lynn

Living Under a Canopy

The Draconids Meteor Shower happened this weekend, and last week, I was looking forward to it because I only have an hour of observing left to do to get the Meteor Club award. Unfortunately, on Sunday night when the peak occurred, we were clouded out.

Yesterday I read that radar in Canada had recorded an outburst of meteor activity with rates of 1,000 meteors an hour, even greater than last year’s outburst and five times that of 2005. I read there might be some residual activity last night and hoped to get a chance to go, but once again, we were clouded out.

But I wasn’t really up for going late last night. Sure, digging up all my winter clothes and the lawn chair and going out into the cold and dark is unpleasant enough. But what makes it really difficult for me is the drive. Many of the other guys in our club merely step out into their dark backyards and into their observing shacks and can observe for hours protected by the elements knowing that they have a bathroom just steps away in their nice, warm houses.

But for me, it’s always been a hassle because I have to drive to do any observing at all. Even the “backyard” observing programs, like the Universe Sampler, are impossible for me because, well, our house is in a very wooded neighborhood. It’s pretty, it’s like living in a forest, and right now, the colorful leaves everywhere make it a beautiful place. But there are only a few very patchy spots where I can look through the leaves and see any sky at all.

And even after all the leaves have fallen off the trees, there’s a mall just three blocks from here that’s lit up like the fourth of July, so there’s no dark observing whatsoever from here.

I look forward to Parmentier’s observing nights because otherwise, I’m observing from the sides of country roads, or from the access road behind Holy Cross Church.  Amy’s lucky. She has at least some sky in her backyard, and better still, a city park with a baseball diamond is just a block away.

I’m sure living in the country with no trees in sight would be great for observing, but in the summer, these trees keep our house and yard shaded and cool, and right now, looking out my window, the leaves are sure beautiful. I’d really miss that.

Lynn