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Archive for the ‘skywatching’ Category

0500 MST, Parks, AZ – The Aurigid Meteor Shower was well worth staying up for, but I’m just about ready to call it a night. I saw several dozen meteors between 0330 and 0440 MST, some of them fairly bright. There were about half a dozen that were truly “ooh” and “aah” worthy, despite the brightness of the moon.

As per Ames’ viewing tips, I found a spot shielded from direct moonlight. My internet satellite service dish filled the bill nicely. I pulled the old purple sleeping bag that I used to use during my time as an EMT up on the Navajo reservation out of the shed and bundled up to watch the light show, moving my fold-up chair to stay in the shadow of the dish. The meteor activity peaked about 0420 with three short bursts of several meteors per minute between 0400 and 0430. I packed it in about 0440, due to the chill (52 degrees F) and general tiredness.

It was a good night for wildlife, too. I heard the Great Horned Owl again, as I have for several nights running, and a little before four o’clock there were several coyotes howling in the wash to the northwest. It was hard to tell how many there actually were as their calls echoed off the adjacent cliff and made it sound as if there were quite a few. Usually I hear just two, or sometimes three. There was even a small bat that fluttered by at one point.

To add to the local flavor, there was intermittent lightning to the north the whole time I was outside from thunderstorms up near the Grand Canyon. Lucky for me, the sky was clear here near the Mogollon Rim. A lovely night.

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Tonight we’re on a once in a lifetime pass through the dust trail of comet Kiess, a known long period comet. Margie sent me a link on the Aurigid meteor shower from NASA’s Ames Research Center website.

The Aurigid shower should be visible from the far western United States, Alaska, Hawaii, and Mexico for about an hour and a half, peaking at around 4:30 a.m. PDT.

The Ames Research Center site has full details on viewing and photographing the shower and a neat java applet that lets you calculate the best viewing time based on your location, type of area, and conditions. It also give you an estimated rate per hour. Do be forewarned, however, that the page did crash my browser several times (Firefox 2.0.0.6, Mac). I could view it for awhile before the page would bite the dust.

Along with the detailed observation tips, Ames also has information on how your viewing and reporting can help them in their quest to learn more about the shower, and its patterns as observed from the ground. The more the merrier, and the better the data! While we’re on terra firma, looking up, scientists from Ames will be overhead doing an observational flight much like the one they did on the recent Perseid shower.

At a rate of close to 200 meteors per hour, the Aurigid shower should be a good one. I’m hoping that the night sky will be clear enough to see it here in the Arizona high country. The monsoons are back, so I’ll be up anyway, doing my computer work during the time of lightest thunderstorm activity.

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