Friday, December 14, 2012
Gem(inid) of the Day
Let me tell you a dirty little secret. It means little to the general population and much more to the astronomers who study these phenomena. The actual showers never look as spectacularly shower like as the visualizations that accompany these headlines might suggest.
I remember about 20 years back, when I went Leonid hunting with my husband and another friend to some of the darkest skies around Pittsburgh- the Hartwood acres park. We waited and shivered there for a couple of hours and were rewarded with the occasional cry of 'Ooh, there goes a meteor" from one or the other (never all at the same time) maybe once every 10 minutes or so. That, my friend, constitutes a 'fantastic view' of the meteor shower, in astronomic terms.
Of late, as the days darken early and the sun takes its own sweet time rising, my morning walks have been moonlit and starlit. How nice it would be if I could catch a meteor in the morning, I thought. So I kept a watchful eye out in the media for the increase in numbers of exclamation points regarding the Geminids, and saw them ( the exclamation points, not the meteors) peak yesterday.
So off I went this morning, determined to keep my eyes glued to the western sky, focused fiercely on Castor and Pollux, the twin stars of Gemini, that give the showers their name. Unlike the photo that is up ( from earthsky.org), staring at the Twins did nothing for me.
It's all my poor luck, I muttered and turned eastward, walking back to my home. And there, in the blink of an eye, a meteor shot across to the northern sky, vanishing somewhere in the vicinity of the Little Dipper.
And that's my Gem(inid) of the Day!