Picture our solar system hanging in space. What is it you see? Planets in nearly circular orbits, revolving at varying speeds around our central star, the Sun? What we don’t usually see is a depiction of what these orbits look like when you also factor in the movement of the Sun around the gravitational center of our galaxy, the Milky Way, and the vortex-like movement of the planets as they get dragged along behind it. This animation takes our star’s galactic motion into account as well, and the paths are much different than what we ordinarily see. Take a look.
Pretty cool, huh?
I stayed up last night to see if I could catch a couple of Leonids. After all, some of the news stories were predicting the possibility of a half storm (as many as 500/hr). Well . . . truth to tell, by the time yesterday rolled around the reality was that if it was going to be that strong anywhere on the planet it would be in Asia, but they were still saying there should be 25 – 30/hr in North America, with the possibility of as many as 200/hr. I don’t live in the darkest part of the world, but Simi Valley is a somewhat sleepy little town and my back yard is reasonably dark.
My first experience with a meteor shower was about thirty years ago, out in the Mojave Desert where some friends and I had gone to view the Perseids, one of the more spectacular showers that usually peaks on or about the morning of August 12. It’s a good time to view them – the weather at night in the desert can be quite pleasant and it was. I saw some beautiful bolides; a couple being bright enough to cast faint shadows on the desert floor. Spectacular! Wondrous! Unfortunately, life intervened and I was never able to get out to that spot again, but I’ve attempted viewings many times since; just never in a really dark location. Now that I have more time, or at least my time is more flexible than it’s been for the last couple three decades, I’m beginning to wonder if my eyes are giving out. Surely my patience is wearing thin.
This year I’ve so far attempted both the Perseids and the Orionids and haven’t seen a damn thing! Last night (this morning) was no exception. I did see two meteors, but neither was a Leonid. One came out of the West and was bright and extremely fast. The other came out of the Northwest and was a bit slower and quite a bit fainter. However, the Leonids were a no-show for me. Perhaps I should have planned to stay out all night, but I just couldn’t afford to give up all of today. I guess I’ll have to content myself with the knowledge I have seen at least one spectacular showing and, perhaps, that will have to be good enough. I’ll probably try again; the Geminids are coming up next month. <sigh>