Memorial Day 2014 Meteor Storm: The Camelopardalids Shower Caused By Comet 209P/LINEAR. The Orbital Charts.
by Anura Guruge
My earlier post on the Camelopardalids Shower got me thinking about the now periodic orbit of Comet 209P/LINEAR.
I had tried to describe it in my post and given my experience with astronomy I could visualize the orbital path in my head. But I wanted to share it with you.
The it occurred to me — JPL.
So I went and captured these three diagrams for you.
The first gives you the macro view showing the full extent of the orbit from close to Earth to close to Jupiter.
In the second I zoomed in on Earth, on March 24, 2014, to show how Earth, always travelling counter-clockwise, is approaching the orbital path of 209P. We are getting the shower, hopefully storm, before we actually cross the path. But we are close. NO, we are not even close to getting hit by the comet. Sorry.
The third diagram shows how the orbit of a comet does not have to be on the same plane as that of the Earth or the other planets for that matter. The planets essentially all orbit on a relatively flat plane known as the ecliptic. That is the flat plane in the middle of the diagram. Earth is in there. Now you can see that the orbit of 209P comes in from over the ecliptic and then dips under. This explains why some comets are bets seen from the Southern Hemisphere.
Camelopardalids Meteor STORM (Bigger Than A Shower), Caused By Comet 209P/LINEAR, Over New Hampshire May 23 – 24, 2014.
…by Anura Guruge
As I have pointed out in other posts meteor showers are caused when the Earth cut across the debris trail left by a comet. This is why we will in centuries to come still have a reminder of poor demised Comet ISON because there will be a Comet ISON (C/2012 S1) associated with the debris that was left behind on its one memorable trip past Earth.
This meteor STORM, with upwards of hundreds of meteors per hour, will be due to us crossing the debris trail left behind by a NOW periodic comet — 209P/LINEAR (where LINEAR stands for the automated Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research sky survey).
This was a comet spotted in February 2004 — though precovery images were discovered going back to December 2003. Given that it now acts like a near-Earth, Jupiter-crosser asteroid with a perihelion of 0.97 AU (i.e., going just inside Earth’s orbit) and an aphelion of 5 AU (orbit of Jupiter), it was initially thought to be an asteroid since it did not exhibit a coma or tail. But, a month after its initial discovery ace-comet spotter, British Robert H. McNaught espied a tail.
That we only have images of it since December 2003 means NOTHING in terms of how long it has been in its current ‘near-Earth’ orbit or as to how many perihelion trips it might have made BEFORE it was gravitationally captured by Jupiter. We just don’t know. Like MOST comets it probably originated way, way, way, way out in the Oort Cloud — just like ISON. Over the last 4 billion years it might have made a number of visits to the Sun BEFORE it came to close to Jupiter on one of these trips — and YES it could have happened on its maiden voyage. But, we don’t know when this happened.
Astronomers now think that on May 23 – 24, 2014 we will cut across the debris trails left SINCE 1803. It now has a orbital period of 5.09 years. This too could have changed over the years.
So much of the hype in the media about this being a new comet and this being a NEW meteor shower/storm is WRONG.
We are just getting to know about it.
That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been around for longer.
Just because we didn’t spot it, when it comes to astronomy, does NOT mean it hadn’t already been there for millennia!
I will keep you posted.
Java-Based JPL Small-Body Database Browser ‘Orbit Diagrams’ (For Solar System Bodies) Working Again With Ver. 8 Update 31.
by Anura Guruge
>> Java updates for ssd.jpl.nasa.gov.
++++ Search ‘Java’ for other posts >>>>
The only reason I have bloody Java on my PCs is because of this JPL Orbit Diagram tracker.
To say that I used it often would be an understatement. Whenever I am writing a book on astronomy (and I have written 6) or even a post about comet or asteroid I use the orbit tracker incessantly. It is a wonderful, interactive tool. It allows you to look back in time or into the future. It is magical. I love it. It is UNIQUE. Nothing else that even gets close.
The orbit tracker to my enormous distress stopped working last October with Ver. 8 Update 25. I had to upgrade because the applet refused to run with the older version. I upgraded and it stopped working. I was beside myself. I tried all the tricks. I included the exceptions. I checked the Windows updates. I waited a few days. Nothing. I contacted JPL. I contacted NASA. I contacted Java support and that was a damn waste of time because they are a bunch of idiots on dope! I contacted Oracle. Another waste of bloody time. It really upset me.
With the tracker I felt lost. I was actually too distraught about it even to write about it! Yes, I am strange. Very few things in life upset me. But not having the orbit tracker really did a number on me. The very observant among you may have noticed that I have, atypically, done NO posts on comets or asteroids in a month. Why? Without the tracker I do not feel I can write about comets or asteroids. I need to see their orbits. Unless I can see the orbit, I can’t relate. If I can’t relate, I wouldn’t insult you by writing about it. I actually STOPPED paying attention to comets and asteroids! I thought about getting a Linux machine or Mac JUST to run the tracker. That was how serious it was.
I updated to Java 8 31 last week on my backup PC just to see if the tracker would work again. It didn’t. I was crushed. When Shane Selling was here a couple of weeks ago we tried installing Java 7 71 to see if that would help. It didn’t.
Then this morning I got an e-mail from JPL. It said: “Hello,
In the latest versions of Java, Oracle is requiring applets be ‘signed’, or they will be blocked from running.
We’ve purchased a security certificate and signed our orbit applet, and installed it today. Give it another try and let me know.”
I powered up my backup in a jiffy. It already had the latest, viz. 8 31. I did a quick Java version check to make sure. I then loaded my bookmarked JPL page. BINGO it worked. To say I was happy would not capture it. It was such a relief. I felt whole again. I felt that I could again pay attention to the Solar System. It was BIG.
I thanked the JPL person profusely. He was very nice. It cost US, i.e., U.S. taxpayer, $400 to buy that security certificate from a U.S. company. Seems strange. You would think they would make an exception for entities like JPL. Never mind. All the matters is that IT WORKS.
I just hope it does NOT break with the next bloody Java update — which, per their record of not being able to ever get it right, might be next week.
Thank YOU, JPL.
Clouds Over New Hampshire May Mar Visibility Of The Memorial Weekend Camelopardalids Meteor Shower (Possibly Storm).
by Anura Guruge
∈ ∋ ∈ ∋ ∈ ∋ ∈ ∋ ∈ ∋ ∈ ∋ ∈ ∋
It doesn’t look that promising for us in New Hampshire this Friday & Saturday night, i.e., May 23 & 24, 2014, BUT I have not given up on it yet.
For a start, with a bit of luck, there should still be some activity Sunday night — and Sunday night looks fairly decent (per WMUR).
This meteor shower, unlike some others, has a point of origin, i.e., the Camelopardalids constellation after which it is named, directly above us — close to the North Star. I often notice that around midnight we can get breaks in the clouds, especially those high up at the top. So we might still have some breaks.
Midnight to 2 am are thought to be the peak hours for us — but the meteors that make up these showers don’t work per clockwork. So there will activity right through the night. Midnight to 2am is perfect for me given that 2 am is typically when I go to sleep — getting to bed about 1:30 am and then reading till I am ready to sleep.
So I plan to go out and have a look around midnight and 1 am. If it looks good I will wake up the kids.
I hope the weather will cooperate. Enjoy.