Leonid meteor shower tonight: Don’t wait up in Dallas

November 16, 2009

Space.com’s story on tonight’s Leonid meteor shower doesn’t encourage me to stay up, or get up to watch (tomorrow morning’s meteor shower, really).  A “strong show,” but not spectacular numbers, and our living so close to Dallas will help obscure much of what would be visible normally.

The first cloud of comet dust was released from the nucleus of Tempel-Tuttle back in the year 1567. North America will be turned toward the constellation Leo when these particles begin pelting the upper layers of our atmosphere, some 80 to 100 miles (130 to 160 km.) above us. Earth’s encounter with the comet dust is going to be brief – possibly no more than several hours long.

Unfortunately, we won’t be going directly through the center of cloud, but rather skim through its outer edge on Nov. 17, chiefly between about 4:30 and 10:30 GMT. As a consequence, the meteor rate is not expected to get much higher than 20 or 30 per hour (on average about one meteor sighting every two or three minutes). Still, this is about two to three times the normal Leonid rate.

At the beginning of this window, it will still be dark across Europe and western Africa with Leo high up in the southeast sky, but within an hour the sky will be brightening as sunrise approaches, soon putting an end to meteor watching.

North Americans – especially those living near and along the Atlantic Seaboard – will be able to watch for Leonids from after 1 a.m. local time right on until the first light of dawn, which comes soon after 5 a.m. local time.

I’ll wager more people will be up watching the new movie 2012 about a wholly fictional collision with Earth than will watch the real collisions from parts of an old comet (Tempel-Tuttle).

More data

2008 Leonids, Chris Peterson at Cloudbait

A composite, all-sky image of the 2008 Leonid outburst over Colorado. Credit: Chris Peterson, Cloudbait Observatory. (NASA) This is a composite image of 141 meteors collected over four evenings, November 16-19 UT. Because the images were collected over many hours, the radiant of the shower is spread out. The Moon was present during the peak activity period each night, so only bright meteors have been recorded. The Moon has been removed from the composite image. (Cloudbait)

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The birth of death panels in the unprincipled opposition to improving health care in America

November 16, 2009

Heckuva story.  Earl Blumenauer is the man responsible for the language in H.R. 3200 that Sarah Palin erroneously claimed created “death panels.”

He’s a Congressman from Oregon.

In Saturday’s New York Times he detailed how critics hijacked the debate with false claims.  Fascinating story.

A very odd result:  Because of the false claims, a provision to help people plan to avoid death panels was stricken from health care reform proposals.  More citizens will face death panel-like decisions as a result.

Previously I thought Orwell was convoluted.

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