2006 Leonids
November 13, 2006 6:00 PM   Subscribe

When the Earth passes through the remains of the comet Tempel-Tuttle this coming weekend, the peak of the Leonid meteor shower this year will be this coming Friday night. This year, however, "astronomers are predicting an unusual outburst of meteor activity" of 100-600 meteors per hour between 11:45 PM and 1:33 AM EST on the night of Saturday, November 18th and long before the moon rises. While not as exciting as past years, it should be a great night for a meteor shower.
posted by ztdavis (48 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
This is my first post, and I'm so nervous I think I'm going to go hide from the internets for a while.
posted by ztdavis at 6:01 PM on November 13, 2006

Don't be nervous - it's a great post! Thanks for the info!! Due to your research I plan to be outside with a martini and a lawn chair on Saturday night!
posted by matty at 6:04 PM on November 13, 2006

*commits ruthless acts of hazing*
posted by cortex at 6:07 PM on November 13, 2006

WTF is this, AstronomyFilter? Dude!

J/K cool post, thanks for the heads up!
posted by ernie at 6:08 PM on November 13, 2006

Good post. Does anyone know whether someone would be able to see this from Washington, DC. I couldn't figure that out from the links (and I'm ignorant).
posted by Falconetti at 6:09 PM on November 13, 2006

Nice post!
posted by unreason at 6:10 PM on November 13, 2006

Falconetti: yes, as long as the skies are clear and you can find a place with little light pollution.
posted by ztdavis at 6:14 PM on November 13, 2006

Anybody want to tell us if this will be visible on the other side of the world at any time?
posted by Pollomacho at 6:29 PM on November 13, 2006

Oh, and Falconetti, this might be a great time to head out to the Eastern Shore for a little off season camping trip (if it's clear).
posted by Pollomacho at 6:31 PM on November 13, 2006

Cool post. So is there much point in checking this out if we live on the West coast of the US? Or will it only be cool for the other coast/Europe/Africa?
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 6:35 PM on November 13, 2006

Fine post!
posted by jamjam at 6:36 PM on November 13, 2006

I stayed up all night for the Leonid shower of 1998. I went about 25 miles out of town to get some nice dark sky. I saw about 500 meteors. They were huge, with vapor trails typically lasting for 30 seconds. Many were audible.

Since then, there hasn't been a forecast for such a good meteor storm. This year is tempting, but western Oregon in November is not a place for meteor showers. Sigh.
posted by neuron at 6:36 PM on November 13, 2006

HTU: Western US is fine. It's roughly Greenwich east that will have a problem seeing it due to that nemesis of astronomy, daytime.

Good first post, ztdavis!
posted by dhartung at 6:41 PM on November 13, 2006

It'll be like Night of the Comet! Everyone get in their steel lined bunkers!

You did remember to build a steel lined bunker, didn't you? Uh-oh.
posted by nyxxxx at 7:00 PM on November 13, 2006

I never planned in my imagination
A situation so heavenly.
A fairy land where no one else could enter
And in the center,
Just you and me.
My heart beat like a hammer.
My arms wound around you tight
And stars fell on Alabama last night.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:34 PM on November 13, 2006

Pollomacho: Twenty years after that song was written, stars did indeed fall on Alabama. In particular, on Ann Hodges. Spooky!
posted by phooky at 8:18 PM on November 13, 2006

What's the deal with the ISS during a meteor shower? Is it somehow calculated that every time there's scheduled meteor activity that it's located in the lee of the planet?

Strike me down with your superior knowledge, starfuckers!
posted by strawberryviagra at 8:24 PM on November 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

Not a bad first post. Your last link in particular to the last great meteor STORM in 1966. Colorado astrophotographer Gary Emerson captured the fury of the great 1966 Leonid meteor storm, the most spectacular storm of the 20th Century. This image was taken over 20 minutes and records only the brightest meteors. At the storm's peak, Emerson says he saw thousands of meteors per second. It was one hell of a show, he said.

The Leonids also produced the Great Storm of 1833. (Read a first hand account)

There are 4 different models predicting the peak (and the possibility of a storm by at least one of them) but anyone who has done it knows that meteor showers are a crap shoot. You go where you can get clear, dark skies and you watch (regardless of where the predictions for the peak is). You might just get the treat of a lifetime, and if not its still a great show.
posted by spock at 9:51 PM on November 13, 2006

There is supposed to be no danger to the ISS. In fact they got to see a meteor shower from above. Satellites can get sandblasted, however. The far greater hazard, believe it or not, is "the potential for electrical short circuits when the impact from a dust grain forms a plasma cloud around a satellite." NASA provides "situational awareness" to satellite operators.
posted by spock at 9:57 PM on November 13, 2006

Thanks, spock, I was looking for a good image.
posted by ztdavis at 9:59 PM on November 13, 2006

Only one impact recorded even during a rain of 150,000 an hour, or a 1 in 1 million chance of direct impact with a piece of dust travelling at 74kms per second.

Crazy vast vacuum of space.
posted by strawberryviagra at 10:33 PM on November 13, 2006

Happy memories being a kid in the countryside, staying up late with a flask of tea watching meteor showers outside! Alas living in a city I can't see anything now.

Check out the wikipedia list of meteor showers

Oh and if you're looking for anything else in the night sky Stellarium is the nuts.
posted by algreer at 4:45 AM on November 14, 2006

I think I'm going to go hide from the internets for a while.

This being the 14th, and the comet's tail not due for another 4 days, you are in the clear! If you had saved this post for the 19th, however, you could expect an army of amateur MeFi astrogazers at your door. Don't laugh, it's happened before.

Thanks for the heads up!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:51 AM on November 14, 2006

I [heart] ztdavis. Nice first post.

Sadly, I don't think we'll get very clear wx in mid-Ohio -- forecast is overcast/rain. Too bad; these things are worth a drive and a flirt with hypothermia to watch. I remember a tremendous Perseid (I think it was) shower back around '99 or so.

Usu. if you plan ahead, you can always scout out someplace to park out of town where there are few/no lights, and most cops are pretty understanding if you tell 'em why you're lying out on the hood of your car on a rural roadside.
posted by pax digita at 7:56 AM on November 14, 2006

[00:39] [skOt] brb
posted by Kino at 9:15 AM on November 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

skOt just did it wrong. The right way.
posted by spock at 9:50 AM on November 14, 2006

Oh, man I loved that movie, Night of the Comet.
So bad it's good.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 10:14 AM on November 14, 2006

Will this be a US only meteor shower or will Australia get to see it too?
posted by Effigy2000 at 10:54 AM on November 14, 2006

From the Leonid Wiki article: "...spikes in activity in 2004 were associated with streams from passages of the Comet Tempel-Tuttle in 1333 and 1733..."

Thats not how it works is it? Maybe I'm reading it wrong, but the meteor shower happens when the Earth passes through the comet's tail. Not from us passing through its tail hundreds of years ago.
posted by premortem at 11:16 AM on November 14, 2006

Well, if it's tail has gotten a bit long and scattery over time, then we might well pass through the place-where-the-comet-passed each year as we orbit the sun, yes?

Note: I am not a cosmologist.
posted by cortex at 11:28 AM on November 14, 2006

They were huge, with vapor trails typically lasting for 30 seconds. Many were audible.

did the sound match closely with the meteor? there's no way that the sound would match given how far away the meteors are and the difference between the speed of sound and the speed of light.

however, you're not crazy. it's believed that the meteors are producing electromagnetic radiation in the 1-20khz range - the same range as the human ear hears sound waves. grasses, buildings, etc. can actually serve as transducers to convert these waves to sound, and that's why you hear the meteor at the same time you see it.

weird, wild stuff. and thanks for the post.
posted by joeblough at 12:39 PM on November 14, 2006

Is there any way a Manhattanite without a car could see the shower via public transportation?
posted by grumblebee at 2:54 PM on November 14, 2006

grumblebee - catch an NJ transit train from Penn Station. you can go almost anywhere, but I'd choose a rural-ish town about 30-40 minutes out of Manhattan (ie. not a big stop like Morristown or something). i only say this because i've been out to some of my company's offices via train, and coming back at night it was friggin dark. murray hill and florham park - you shouldn't have to walk far from either stop to have great views, just check the schedules coming back.

that said, i'm flagging this spacenewsfilter post.

(kidding, now i'm planning an after-date-date with the gf - thanks!)
posted by allkindsoftime at 3:53 PM on November 14, 2006

>> Many were audible.

> Did the sound match closely with the meteor?

Yes, indeed. The sounds would be essentially simultaneous with the meteor and from the same direction, as I recall. You make a good point about distances and speed of sound; I'm just tellin' ya what I observed.

Was the induced atmospheric ionization creating EM waves that my auditory nerve was picking up? I seriously doubt it. (As a physicist/radio engineer/physician, I should be able to figure this out, but I'm too sleepy right now.)
posted by neuron at 8:43 PM on November 14, 2006

no, i dont think that your auditory nerves pick up the EM directly... i've heard that grass is a likely transducer, and i'd wager that it would work electrostatically... though the field strength to turn grass into an electrostatic speaker would have to be pretty dang high.

anyway, the exact mechanism for 'meteor audio' is a topic of some debate. or at least that's what teh google seems to indicate.
posted by joeblough at 11:32 PM on November 14, 2006

4.50am - Hat, scarf and uppers dedication required to see it in Scotland. I shall give it a try.

Thanks for the heads up.
posted by Shave at 5:54 AM on November 15, 2006

If anyone can give any information about which countries will get to see the shower and at what times, I think we'd all appreciate it. I'm in England and I would love to see this.
posted by Acey at 8:04 AM on November 15, 2006

Thanks, ztdavis! I would have hated to miss this!
posted by sidereal at 6:30 PM on November 15, 2006

Acey: dhartung posted a link up above that should answer your question.

It seems like roughly 4:45 AM is peak time for your neck of the woods.
posted by ztdavis at 9:26 PM on November 15, 2006

The Aurora Borealis has made a noise in the ears of many observers. If grass is the source of the sound, it would almost have to be high voltage discharge from the needle tips of the blades.

If the Aurora and meteor showers can produce a noise via an electromagnetic field, wouldn't you expect the same from lightning? As I try to review my memories of a handful of times lightning has struck within 50-100 yards of me, I actually do seem to recall a high pitched tearing sound preceding the boom by a fraction of a second, but I've never previously thought the delay would require much of an explanation.
posted by jamjam at 8:59 AM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]

i've heard that grass is a likely transducer, and i'd wager that it would work electrostatically

Holy crap, that's amazing!
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:47 AM on November 16, 2006

For those who still aren't sure where they can view the Leonids, take a peek here.
posted by luminous phenomena at 3:47 PM on November 17, 2006

You're far better off waiting for the Geminids in December. Or better yet, the Perseids next August
posted by yupislyr at 9:40 PM on November 18, 2006

Didn't see anything spectacular at the proscribed time from 35.551571, -97.556318 between 11:30pm and 12:20am CT. Might have been some light pollution, but I've seen meteors before in the park across the street. meh.
posted by HyperBlue at 12:15 AM on November 19, 2006

proscribed prescribed
posted by HyperBlue at 12:20 AM on November 19, 2006

It was cloudy for me, so I didn't see jack squat.
posted by ztdavis at 8:17 AM on November 19, 2006

It was cloudy and I didn't see shit. I even had people come over for a little Leonid meteor watching party on my roof. Fuck meteors!
posted by Falconetti at 9:59 AM on November 19, 2006

I saw 3, from my peripheral vision, after watching for 15 minutes or so.

Somewhat unspectacular.
posted by lyam at 5:24 AM on November 20, 2006

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