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Monthly Archives: May 2014

Clouds and CameleopardalidsWell, sadly I have to report that the much anticipated (and over-hyped, apparently) meteor “storm” of 2014 was a giant fizzle, or more accurately a little drizzle! After driving first to my observatory, and then out to Joshua Tree National Park in an effort to dodge clouds (mostly successful), we saw just a handful of meteors. A few seen were decently bright, but nothing that was blinding or casting shadows, unfortunately. Here are the results, posted on my web page:


If you have some time Friday night before this (U.S.) holiday weekend, go out to a dark site, away from city lights. The dust trail from periodic comet 209P/Linear may give us a nice show of meteors flashing across the sky.

Unlike well-known annual meteor showers such as the Leonid or Perseid showers, this meteor shower doesn’t happen regularly because this time the earth will be passing through “puffs” of dust emitted by comet 209P/Linear in previous orbits over a century ago and recently steered toward Earth’s orbit by Jupiter’s gravity. The coincidence of Earth’s position and the position of these streams of dust in their own orbit make for a potentially good show. Predictions range from 100-400 meteors per hour, which makes for a good to intense shower.

If you’re serious about making an effort to see this meteor shower, get away from city lights and don’t look at any bright lights for at least 15 minutes to allow your eyes can become sensitive to the smaller, dimmer meteors. The meteors will appear to originate in the north (the radiant point), but should be visible all over the sky. The peak time is predicted to be at 07:00-08:00 UTC — starting around midnight on Friday evening (May 23-24) for the Pacific coast of the U.S. On this evening, the waning crescent moon rises around 2:20 AM, so those of us on the West Coast of the U.S. should have a dark sky for the peak of the show.

Comet 209P/Linear meteor shower radiant location

Click on image for larger view.

Settle into a reclining lawn chair with a blanket and hot drink and enjoy the show. As with terrestrial weather predictions, the shower could be a weak drizzle or turn into a storm. There are no guarantees except one — if you don’t try to look, you’ll be guaranteed to see nothing!

P.S. In the tradition of naming meteor showers after the constellation containing the radiant, the name of this one would be the Camelopardalids — a mouthful which I hope does NOT stick!


On May 10th, I saw something that I’ve never seen before in Los Angeles — a sun pillar…

Sun pillar

This shot was taken after sunset. The vertical column of light in the center of the photo is apparently caused by high altitude ice crystals. It may be nearly summer on the ground, but high up in the atmosphere, it’s always cold enough for ice if the water vapor is present.

Others tell me they have seen it occasionally from southern California, but the only other place I’ve personally seen it is in Mongolia!  It may be that I need to get out more often at sunset or sunrise.