Sunday, November 24, 2019

alpha monocerotids

There was a news item earlier in the week that there was a possibility of a meteor burst on Thursday night the 21st.  It would be from about 8:30pm to 9:30pm and possibly have 400 in an hour.  The radiant would be below our horizon during this time, but it should still be possible to see the high grazers skipping the atmosphere at higher altitudes.

So I drove up to Henry Coe with Clara & Carol.  Traffic was very bad (many leaving work a bit early to get out of town for Thanksgiving), and we stopped along the way for a quick dinner.  We arrived at the overflow parking lot at 7:30, and I was surprised to find it well and truly padlocked, not just dummy locked as in years past.  It seems one does need to contact the rangers in advance, though I never needed to before.  We parked outside the gate and each of us tried to take a nap.  Shortly after 8:00 I walked our lawn chairs into the parking lot and set them up facing east.  Wrapped snugly in our sleeping bags and blankets, we started to look.

We could see lights from the ranger station across the little valley, and hear some people talking in the campground.  But otherwise it was quiet, except for some train whistles sounding from far below. The winter Milky Way could be faintly seen east of meridian; M31 was visible naked eye as it passed overhead.  We had a nice time watching Orion rise.

One other person arrived before 9pm, and sat near us as we all waited.  We saw a couple sporadics, none of them quite bright, but it was heading in the wrong direction.  I kept waiting...  Clara fell asleep.  Finally at 9:15 I felt something might be wrong, since it was well past the predicted peak.  At 9:30 still nothing, so we decided to go home.

Obviously the prediction was wrong.  I read later that the originating comet is long period and its orbit is not precisely known, so there is more margin of error than what past events might lead one to believe.

I was not disappointed, though.  I liked being outside with Clara and Carol, and I think we had a good time.  We saw an owl, two stags, and a possum on the drive home, which was wonderous.

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