Monday, 14 December 2009


Just because I am into deep sky observing doesn't mean I don't appreciate a good bit of shallow sky action when it's happening and 13th, 14th and 15th December happen to be when you can see the annual Geminid meteor shower in 2009. It promised to be a good one, with predicted rates of 100-120 meteors an hour. The shower was due to start around 2130 UT although the best time would be after midnight UT when the radiant had risen high enough.
Still having the effects of the bad cold I had caught the previous week I went to bed early and got up at 2330 UT, dressed and carried my folding chair (a useful souvenir of the IW Festival a couple of years ago - a relative of one of my aunt's work colleagues was one of the clean up crew and there were a lot of discarded items, as-new-only-used-once items at that, afterwards, all free to a good home) outside.
In the course of half an hour I saw many meteors, at least three or four a minute, maybe more. Most of them were quite small ones, but there were also large, spectacular ones too. Something I noticed was that you'd get a short lull of a couple of minutes, then a flurry of several meteors before another short lull of a couple of minutes. It was quite a show and, with the Moon out of the way (waning crescent which rose just before 0700 UT), a big improvement over the much more famous Perseids in August which were washed out by a quarter Moon this year.
After half an hour I was getting cold and having to get up at 0600 meant that I couldn't stay outside much longer. A pity as it was shaping up to be a nice night, after cloud earlier in the evening, and I would have loved to have brought the 12 inch out for its first proper winter observing run. I got out of the chair - and my knees were so cold I thought they'd snap! - and headed in after a pleasant half an hour gazing at the sky with nothing but my unaided eyes.
Unfortunately, with a grim forecast and a cloudy sky, tonight does not look as if it will follow suit.

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