December 13, 2017 2:18 PM   Subscribe

"Rock-comet" 3200 Phaethon is approaching the Earth and it's closest point of approach will be a mere 6,407,618 miles away. That means it's time for the best meteor shower of the year, the Geminid meteor shower, expected to peak at maximum tonight under a very slim and late-rising Moon posted by the man of twists and turns (18 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Oooh! Wait, it's 9° (-13°) out.
posted by Bee'sWing at 2:29 PM on December 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

i discovered this accidentally in high school when, on large amounts of lsd, a bunch of us drove out to montauk in the middle of the night for lack of anything better to do. we huddled like unruly puppies under a coats and blankies nest on the still-warm hood of the car and screamed delightedly with each passing meteor.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:32 PM on December 13, 2017 [7 favorites]

3200 Phaethon would be a good User or Band name.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:36 PM on December 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

A few years back, climate change gifted me with a balmy 65 degree viewing of these. I was in my back yard work n South Carolina with beer that stayed cold, and still wearing shorts. Perfect. Plus: They were astounding! The question is if they were astounding enough for me to brave the cold snap Northern GA is currently in, and also still get up for work at 5am.. maaaaybe, because... IT'S SPACE!
posted by 1f2frfbf at 2:43 PM on December 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

3200 Phaethon
It sounds like a very fast car.
posted by Bee'sWing at 2:43 PM on December 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

I plan on being out trying to shoot long exposure astrolandscape shots tonight, and hoping it remains fairly clear and doesn't get too foggy or overcast. I'm getting my thermal layers and all the fleece and such ready right now.

As much as I love the PNW and the gentle rains that keep everything so green, we miss out on basically all of the good astronomy stuff due to the probability of cloud cover. It was a near thing we were able to see the most recent solar eclipse at all. The last few Geminid showers have been cloudy for me. Heck, there was a really cloudy period a few years ago where I didn't see a completely full moon for what must have been almost an entire year.

So it's super rare that we get a combination of (hopefully) clear-ish skies along with a relative lack of moon at least for a few hours and the predicted peak of the showers.

Back in the 90s I went out with some friends to a fairly dark and high altitude location in SoCal and we had a hell of a show, especially the big green ones that liked to spark and spiral. They were so bright and so persistent for a few hours that it would light up the terrain like the auroras or even a far off thunderstorm.
posted by loquacious at 2:44 PM on December 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

It sounds like a very fast car.

Or an enterprise grade router, firewall or packet inspector.
posted by loquacious at 2:45 PM on December 13, 2017

If you need to find some dark sky, here is a handy dandy map!

(The nearest place for truly dark sky in my area is situated right outside a town called Viewland. Eponysterical.)
posted by elsietheeel at 2:48 PM on December 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

I was at a spa with friends last weekend, and we saw a bunch of meteors while we sat in an outdoor hot tub and it was goddamn magical!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:16 PM on December 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

This is my kind of news. I am going somewhere dark tomorrow morning early.
posted by Oyéah at 3:19 PM on December 13, 2017

...but it wasn’t a rock...
It was a rock CO-MET!
*bass riff*
posted by dephlogisticated at 4:20 PM on December 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

3200 Phaethon
It sounds like a very fast car.

Not as good as the Binford 6100 though.
MORE POWER *simian grunting*
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:12 PM on December 13, 2017

I was at a spa with friends last weekend, and we saw a bunch of meteors while we sat in an outdoor hot tub and it was goddamn magical!

See, this is exactly what I was talking about in the robot exoskeleton thread. I need some kind walking robot hot tub suit for this kind of night time photography.

Could you imagine being able to just wade out into the sea or even float while still being nimble enough to walk anywhere a human is allowed to walk, all in the lazy heated comfort of some kind of heated robot suit you can just ride around like a bicycle?

I could actually see this kind of augmented wandering happening at some point in the future if it resembles Banks' Culture. People have fusion-powered, climate controlled adventure suits just to be able to say, walk the circumference of every major planetoid in the (a) solar system over a hundred years for the sole purpose of, say, photography. Or live-blogging silly dances during astronomical events all over the galaxy.

This is kind of the extreme artistic/creative end of a post scarcity economy and higher energy level universal income silliness.

And I should be finishing packing and getting the bike and eyeballs ready.

I should actually be pretty ok tonight. I have a small stockpile of chemical handwarmers, and a planned list of probable shots. I have some new shell pants to try out, as well as a new vintage flash for spot fills and maybe even a lasers and light painting.

I'm mainly worried at this point it's going to be overcast here, 'cause it's kind of socking in. I see a brief window in the satellite IR view, though.
posted by loquacious at 7:29 PM on December 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

The comet said to portend untold horrors, and the end of the world. But for me the comet brings no fear. No, I'll gaze joyfully and hope it puts 2017 out of its misery.
posted by bleep at 7:39 PM on December 13, 2017

There is nothing like a meteor shower (well, the total eclipse, recently, was fantastic, in Wyoming).

It's worth getting up at 2AM. Once I enticed two other families to drive from Denver halfway to Kansas to stay in a motel and get up at 2AM to go out and see the Perseid meteor shower when it was a big one and no one regretted it. (Except maybe my wife, who had been in a canoe in a lake during the classic 1966 Leonid shower, and said, "Ehh, I've seen better.")

Unfortunately, it's cloudy in Denver tonight, so I'll be in dreamland.
posted by kozad at 7:44 PM on December 13, 2017

I saw four. That's pretty good for the middle of the city.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:34 AM on December 14, 2017

Clouds, clouds, clouds where I am! So bitter!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:16 PM on December 14, 2017

Field report: Well, that was kind of a dud here compared to other years I've seen. I saw a good dozen or so decent sized ones but nothing like the more intense showers I've seen where's it's just a continuous flow of smaller and larger flashes. I also got fogged out towards the end.

I was out from about 1 AM till sunrise - which is almost 8 AM around here - just wandering around watching the sky. I hiked at least 8, a lot of it on sand/beaches. I was even contacted by the fuzz for the first time on one of my photography missions for daring to stand around in an empty beachside park at 4:30 in the morning. (Note to self: Get contact cards made, dummy. You knew this was going to happen eventually.)

I'm actually surprised I didn't see anyone else out at all. Not a soul. People often turn up at this beach park when there's astronomical things going on, but apparently the whole town was asleep. Like, I didn't even see a single moving car until that officer showed up wondering why I was standing around staring at the sky.

I managed to take about a dozen or so 10-20 minute range long exposures and I captured exactly zero meteor tracks.

Which is weird and disappointing because I normally capture one or more in any given long exposure to the point that they're kind of annoying and can intrude on a smooth star trail landscape shot. I was hoping to try to get one of those cool astro shots where you can see multiple tracks all radiating away from Gemini, but no.

Oh, well. It's like fishing. There's definitely worse ways to spend the evening. I got some pretty cool shots in the fog and waning moon and found a few locations I want to check out again. I also managed to get totally lost at on point, which is nice.
posted by loquacious at 11:58 PM on December 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

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