The Alpha Monocerotids happened as predicted, even if not quite as we expected.
Michael Boyle Sr. caught an Alpha Monocerotid speeding through Orion last night. I saw 20 meteors in an hour (not 400) from a dark sky site. But they were faint," writes Boyle. Michael Boyle Sr.
Astronomy is just so weird. Sometimes you have to take it in stride. After the hype of the Alpha Monocerotids of which I'm partly to blame the shower proved to be very weak. Michael Boyle Sr., an amateur astronomer in Florida, an ideal spot from which to view the event, reported about 20 meteors per hour at peak. Others saw a few. I stood in a bitter cold wind for an hour and 15 minutes and saw exactly one.
I can't tell you exactly why the shower was a dud, but it's safe to say our understanding of the Alpha Monocerotids is imperfect despite the fact that the researchers nailed the predicted peak within 10 minutes of the original estimate (5:00 UT vs. 4:50 UT). While the 400 meteors per hour rate was for ideal conditions over a short period of time, the radiant was low for many observers in the U.S., so fewer meteors were expected. Still, I was surprised that I saw almost none. My skies were excellent despite occasional clouds, with the winter Milky Way easily visible. The radiant stood a couple of fists above the horizon. (Nov. 23 update: The count was off by a factor of 5 possibly due to Earth grazing the comet's trail instead of passing directly through it.)
While waiting and watching for meteors, other sights made the outing a special one including seeing Sirius reflecting on Lake Superior. Bob King
While astronomers can predict the positions of planets and stars like clockwork, some phenomena remain elusive. The aurorae are a prime example infamous for either not showing up on time, not happening when they're "supposed to," or appearing unexpectedly.
Native American mythology makes room for nature's unpredictable side by including a character called the trickster, which usually takes the form of an animal. Locally, he's a coyote. The trickster is a supernatural being who likes to mess with humans and break the rules. If you're a skywatcher, it eventually becomes second-nature to allow for a potentially spectacular event to not happen at all. Yes, there is disappointment, but there is often joy in the occasion for the simple reason that you showed up.
Showing up means you invested a part of yourself and time to pay attention to something in that big world out there. In doing so, you've also opened yourself up to experiencing something unexpected. At the very minimum, those who did go out last night got to see Orion and Sirius in all their twinkling glory. I saw that . . . and a little more.
The sky over my house was solidly overcast an hour before the start of shower, but for some reason was clear over the neighboring Lake Superior. I wished for a boat. In lieu of that, I got in the car and drove the two miles down to the lake. Incredibly, a chunk of clear sky hung open in the southeastern sky in the direction of Orion and the shower. Elsewhere clouds hung thickly.
Spectacular shower, right? Nope. What you're seeing is actually a train of F-16 jets flying in a formation over Lake Superior. The bright star is Sirius. Bob King
I set up a camera, stood in the 20 mph, 20 wind, and watched. I saw a couple of sporadic or unrelated meteors but no shower members until around 10:37 p.m. That's when I noticed what looked like sparks flashing from the radiant (from where the meteors appear to stream), southwest of Procyon, a star near the constellation of Monoceros, the Unicorn.
The sparking continued for several minutes and looked almost exactly like distant fireworks pop! pop pop! pop! I started yelling crazy "wows" into the wind, thinking this was it, the event we had all hoped for until I looked around and noticed there weren't any sister meteors plowing across the rest of the sky. That wasn't normal. A couple minutes later the flashes had shifted further west and eventually it became apparent: I was looking at a bunch of airplanes!
We have a national guard air base in Duluth, Minnesota, and the pilots will routinely practice flying at night over Lake Superior and the neighboring state of Wisconsin. I'd never seen so many bunched up so close at a distance. Their flashing lights mimicked head-on meteor flares and created the perfect fake meteor shower with a "radiant" or direction of travel from the southeast of Monoceros.
By 11 o'clock the Big Dipper began to climb the northeastern sky once again.Bob King
The sole Alpha Monocerotid I saw streaked slowly upward from the Unicorn and sliced across Orion, maxing out around first magnitude. For me, though, the Milky Way was enough, the Big Dipper standing on his handle above wispy clouds, and the roar of waves slapping the rocks below the road where I parked my car.
Now nearly frozen, I collapsed the tripod and got back into the car at 11:30 p.m., strangely content after not seeing what might have been the best meteor shower of my life.
This post originally appeared in AstroBob: Celestial happenings you can see from your own backyard.
See more here:
- The Sky This Week from February 21 to March 1 - Astronomy Magazine - February 24th, 2020
- Astronomers Have Detected Molecular Oxygen in Another Galaxy For The First Time - ScienceAlert - February 24th, 2020
- Could alien life hitchhike to Earth on space rocks from other stars? - Astronomy Magazine - February 24th, 2020
- Controversial simulation creates galaxies without using dark matter - Astronomy Magazine - February 24th, 2020
- How Interferometry Works, and Why it's so Powerful for Astronomy - Universe Today - February 24th, 2020
- Heather Couper, 19492020 - Astronomy Now Online - February 24th, 2020
- Star Betelgeuse's mysterious dimming has the attention of UA astronomer - Arizona Public Media - February 24th, 2020
- Molecular oxygen has been spotted beyond the Milky Way for the first time - Science News - February 24th, 2020
- Heather Couper: Astronomer who brought the stars to a wide audience - The Independent - February 24th, 2020
- These 60 Hyderabad kids are falling in love with astronomy at BMBSC. Do you know how? - EdexLive - February 24th, 2020
- How a Single Image Taken in 1995 Revolutionized Astronomy - Fstoppers - February 24th, 2020
- Look up: Astronomical event on the way - WOODTV.com - February 24th, 2020
- Astronomers look to preserve the night sky as thousands of satellites set to launch - CBC.ca - February 24th, 2020
- SETI and other alien-hunting strategies are dealing with new tools and new troubles - GeekWire - February 24th, 2020
- Watch out, Avengers: This asteroid has a more violent track record than Thanos - SYFY WIRE - February 24th, 2020
- On Student Success, This Astronomer Walks the Walk - UANews - February 17th, 2020
- Astronomers Have Aired Concerns About Musk's Starlink in a Paper, And It's Intense - ScienceAlert - February 17th, 2020
- Orion and its dimming star Betelgeuse shine over a stargazer in this sentimental night-sky photo - Space.com - February 17th, 2020
- When Betelgeuse goes supernova, what will it look like from Earth? - Astronomy Magazine - February 17th, 2020
- The Sky This Week from February 14 to 23 - Astronomy Magazine - February 17th, 2020
- Planetesimal Arrokoth is helping astronomers understand the formation of the planets - Firstpost - February 17th, 2020
- How many planets are there in the universe? - Astronomy Magazine - February 17th, 2020
- What is a neutron star? | Astronomy Essentials - EarthSky - February 17th, 2020
- Astronomers Simulated How the Universe Would Look Without Dark Matter - Universe Today - February 17th, 2020
- What is a fast radio burst? What causes the signal from space? - Vox.com - February 17th, 2020
- SpaceX's next Starlink volley remains stuck on Earth to glee of astronomers everywhere - The Register - February 17th, 2020
- Weekly Round-Up Of Space And Astronomy Opportunities For Africans - Space in Africa - February 17th, 2020
- Astronomers Discover Eleven Dangerous Asteroids That Could Impact the Earth - SciTechDaily - February 17th, 2020
- Astronomers want you to help them count the stars this Valentine's Day - CBC.ca - February 17th, 2020
- Scientists theorize that space aliens may already be here, but we dont recognize them - San Francisco Chronicle - February 17th, 2020
- Indian Astronomy And Mathematics: When Kerala Became The Locus Of Genius - Swarajya - February 17th, 2020
- Cosmic Rays from beyond Solar System Affect Atmosphere of Titan | Astronomy - Sci-News.com - February 17th, 2020
- astronomy | Definition & Facts | Britannica - February 12th, 2020
- Astronomy | Definition of Astronomy by Merriam-Webster - February 12th, 2020
- What is Astronomy? Definition & History | Space - February 12th, 2020
- Benefits Of Astronomy As A Subject In Primary And Secondary Schools Curricula - Space in Africa - February 12th, 2020
- The Sky This Week from February 7 to 16 - Astronomy Magazine - February 12th, 2020
- Solar Orbiter is on its way to study the Sun - Astronomy Magazine - February 12th, 2020
- Astronomers Find Three Massive Exoplanets Orbiting Evolved Star | Astronomy - Sci-News.com - February 12th, 2020
- The Night Sky Will Never Be the Same - The Atlantic - February 12th, 2020
- Astronomers Find Ultramassive Galaxy From The Early Universe That Suddenly Died - ScienceAlert - February 12th, 2020
- Astronomers have found a deep space radio burst that pulses every 16 days - MIT Technology Review - February 12th, 2020
- Scientists detect an unexplainable radio signal from outer space that repeats every 16 days - USA TODAY - February 12th, 2020
- Here are some astronomical LEGO facts in honor of LEGO Masters upcoming space-themed episode - FOX 10 News Phoenix - February 12th, 2020
- Ask An Astronomer: Here's All You Need to Know About Decade's First Supermoon on February 9 - The Weather Channel - February 12th, 2020
- The economic cost of destroying nature is astronomical - Fast Company - February 12th, 2020
- Darkest county in Georgia has its own astronomy village - 13WMAZ.com - February 12th, 2020
- The 2020 'Super Bowl of Astronomy' Kicks Off in Hawaii - Space.com - January 5th, 2020
- Crater found from asteroid that covered 10% of Earth's surface in deb - Astronomy Magazine - January 5th, 2020
- East Haven Coffee Shop To Host Astronomy Night on January 24th - East Haven, CT Patch - January 5th, 2020
- Astronomy 2020: Every major meteor shower, supermoon and more - The Know - January 5th, 2020
- Rocket Launches, Trips to Mars and More 2020 Space and Astronomy Events - The New York Times - January 5th, 2020
- The Sky This Week from January 3 to 12 - Astronomy Magazine - January 5th, 2020
- Hubble Team Produces 30th Anniversary Calendar for 2020 | Astronomy - Sci-News.com - January 5th, 2020
- Thousands of astronomers are gathering in Honolulu as TMT discord looms - Honolulu Star-Advertiser - January 5th, 2020
- Astronomy Before the Telescope set - The Greater New Milford Spectrum - January 5th, 2020
- Astronomy VLOG: What the 2020s Mean for Space Travel - WAVY.com - January 5th, 2020
- The Steady State: When Astronomers Tried to Overthrow the Big Bang - Discover Magazine - January 5th, 2020
- We Have Absolutely No Idea Whats Out There Astronomers 2019 Views on Extraterrestrial Life (Weekend Featu - The Daily Galaxy --Great Discoveries... - January 5th, 2020
- What is the asteroid belt? | Space - EarthSky - January 5th, 2020
- Wanda Diaz Merced is a blind astronomer who hears the science of the stars - Boing Boing - January 5th, 2020
- What the interstellar medium tells us about the early universe - Astronomy Magazine - December 13th, 2019
- Astronomers find 19 more galaxies missing their dark matter - Astronomy Magazine - December 13th, 2019
- Europe's XMM-Newton Telescope Celebrates 20 Years of X-Ray Astronomy - Space.com - December 13th, 2019
- See interstellar comet Borisov on its way toward the Sun - Astronomy Magazine - December 13th, 2019
- The Sky This Week from December 6 to 15 - Astronomy Magazine - December 13th, 2019
- Mars 2020's landing site could be a good place to hunt for fossils - Astronomy Magazine - December 13th, 2019
- 'Monster Black Hole' Discovery Found to be Incorrect But That's How Science Progresses - Space.com - December 13th, 2019
- Can Astronomy Explain the Biblical Star of Bethlehem? - Snopes.com - December 13th, 2019
- This Is How Astronomers Know The Age Of The Universe (And You Can, Too) - Forbes - December 13th, 2019
- Milky Way's Thick Disk is 10 Billion Years Old, Astronomers Say | Astronomy - Sci-News.com - December 13th, 2019
- Science needs true diversity to succeed -- and Australian astronomy shows how we can get it - The Conversation AU - December 13th, 2019
- Astronomers Discover MAMBO-9, Most Distant Dusty Star-Forming Galaxy We Were in Doubt if It Was Real - SciTechDaily - December 13th, 2019
- Merging Pair of Dusty Star-Forming Galaxies Spotted 13 Billion Light-Years Away | Astronomy - Sci-News.com - December 13th, 2019
- Astronomers look inside meteorites and find the sugars needed for life - Astronomy Magazine - November 24th, 2019
- That Starlink Problem Astronomers Were Worried About Is Totally Happening - ScienceAlert - November 24th, 2019
- Will SpaceXs Starlink Mega-Constellation Ruin Astronomys Biggest Ever Eye On The Sky? - Forbes - November 24th, 2019
- A weird, orbital dance keeps these moons of Neptune safely on track - Astronomy Magazine - November 24th, 2019
- Astronomers Finally Find the Neutron Star Leftover from Supernova 1987A - Universe Today - November 24th, 2019
- Astronomers Observe Host Galaxy of Extremely Bright and Long Gamma-Ray Burst | Astronomy - Sci-News.com - November 24th, 2019