Monday, December 14, 2015

12/13/15, Geminid meteor shower & a try for Catalina

I sat out in the backyard from 9:30pm to 10:45pm to watch the peak of the Geminid meteor shower.  It was clear but with poor transparency and shreds of marine layer clouds passing swiftly overhead.  I saw 31 total for the time spent, mostly in Aurgia and Taurus, with a few in Gemini only late in the session, and these headed to the east.  A few were bright long streaks, but without smoke trails.  Most were quick little dashes, and seemed to fall from their place.  #24 and 25 were in Taurus, about 5 seconds apart.  Most were emanating from the east and were true Geminids; the first one I saw came from Cassiopeia and headed toward Gemini.  It was cold but I was fine in my down parka and heavy boots.  I once fully dark adapted I could see Orion's shield stars and even the line of stars (14, 16, 19) in Auriga's middle.  I tried to see some open clusters with the Vixens but the sky was too bright.

I've wanted to try to see comet Catalina and the morning of 12/14 was the first clear sky chance I had.  I told myself if I happened to wake up early enough I would go out -- and somehow my body woke me up at exactly 5am.  I put back on my winter clothes (which I set out from the night before after the meteor watch) and took my 8" reflector to give it a go.  I became very disorientated trying to find the right location.  The far eastern end of Virgo, where the comet was supposed to be, is hard for me to navigate to, since there are so many faint stars.  I tried sweeping with binoculars but didn't see anything.  I eventually tried to star hop from Arcturus, but I didn't bring a bright enough red flashlight and I had trouble reading the charts.  Eventually I ran out of night sky and twilight took over.  I looked at Jupiter and Mars, which were both mushy in the poor seeing.  Venus was as bright as some of the planes heading toward Oakland airport.  I will try again tomorrow morning, assuming I can wake myself up again, and this time more carefully plan.

But, the irony is, I saw seven meteorites while I was out in the morning, darting around Leo and Virgo.  This in a shorter period of time than last night's watch, and with me more focused on trying to find the blasted comet, looking in my finder or the binoculars.  So when was the real peak?

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