Like Duck to Water, thats how I have taken to life :). This blog is the saga of love and adventures of a small duck in a large water body called LIFE....

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Orionid showers!

I have been into astronomy since my 10th standard. Note that its "astronomy" and not "astrology" :-p.

the science that deals with the material universe beyond the earth's atmosphere.

the study that assumes and attempts to interpret the influence of the heavenly bodies on human affairs.

I guess the confusion is pretty common, I have had many people showing me their palms when I have told them that I am into astronomy :-p.

My interest started, as I said, in 10th standard, when we had loads of astronomy in our science syllabus plus a teacher who was crazy about space :). We learnt about constellations, comets, meteors and what not. Plus the teacher told us about a planet in the andromeda galaxy which was like earth. He was so enthusiastic about the subject, that it was so easy to get involved myself. I was so into finding constellations in the night sky :). I was seriously considering a career in astronomy, well, until I found that studying meant lots of maths and not just star-gazing :-D. In fact, even now, one of my biggest wishes is to buy a very powerful telescope and gaze into the sky all I want ;-).

Though the career option never worked out, my interest never lessened. In fact it slowly increased, what with the appearance of Comet Hyakutake the next year and Comet Hale-Bopp in the subsequest one. Hyakutake was lots of fun as it was the first comet I had ever seen and I didn't really know what to expect. After having watched a show in a planetarium, I really thought that a comet was a shiny little line running all over the night sky (I'm not kidding, I was 16 years old and I really believed that!). After reading in the papers about Hyakutake, I actually woke at about 4 AM in the morning just to watch it. I watched and watched but didn't find a single line running over the sky ;-):-D. It was only after gazing for a long time and refering to the map several times in the newspaper did I discover that the comet was actually a blurry looking star-like object (which stood absolutely still :-D). There is movement, but its so small a change that it maybe noticed only the next night. I was so excited that I woke up everyone at home just to show them the comet :). Comet Hale-Bopp was much easier, as I knew what to expect this time.

My interest also extended to meteors and eclipses (I have never seen a total solar eclipse till now :-D). Meteors, normally are difficult to watch out for, as they are just shooting stars in the sky. You might wait a whole night and see nothing. But there are some special times, when the earth's orbit crosses over a comet's path. The comet usually leaves a trail of debris behind and when the earth's atmosphere comes in contact, they suddenly are subjected to earth's gravity and fall as meteors. This makes for a very beautiful view as many shooting starts occur over an hour and its almost like a very slow firework show in the sky. I first came to know of these "showers" through Leonids.

Most of the meteor showers are named after the constellation from which they "seem" to erupt. Leonids, as the name suggest, seem to radiate from constellation Leo and are caused by the debris left by Comet Tempel-Tuttle. They occur every year, but I have watched them about 3 times now. The fun in waking up at a really odd hour in the night, sitting in the cold to watch a meteor shower is something else :-D. Once we were living in an apartment and the Leonids were supposed to be really good that year, so there were about 50-60 people from various apartments gathered on the terrace just to watch them! I remember seeing about 60 meteors that time :-D.

I never knew that there were other showers, I never did bother to research about them till now (sad fact for an amateur astronomer :-p). On Saturday Oct 20th 2007, I was just talking to somebody over phone, when I noticed that Sri had a webpage open about a meteor shower. I was on it in a minute and found out these were Orionids, caused bythe debris of the famous Halley's comet. And the shower was going to peak the very same night (it was predicted that there would be 20 meteors per hour), i.e Oct 21st Sunday early morn at about 5 AM! Look at my luck ;-).

So I decided to be up at around 4:30 AM, but actually was up by 4 AM. Imagine the scene. A 7 month pregnant woman, dressed up in 3 layers of clothes, sitting outside in the cold at 4 AM! I'm crazy, I tell you :-D. It was really chilly, but I pulled up a chair outside in the back yard where I had a good view of the Orion constellation (which is where the Orionids are supposed to emerge from). I saw meteors, but the frequency was very slow. Now there are supposed to be 20 per hour doesn't mean that you get to see everything. Some might be too small for the naked eye while you might miss some when you are not looking at a particular direction. Sri did come out for a while, but he could see no meteors and was off into the warmth of the house in a matter of minutes :-D. Meteor-spotting requires a certain amount of patience and patience pays only sometimes ;-).

I was up for about 2 hours and managed to see about 25 meteors, which was quite ok. Two of them were really bright and left a visual trail! Soon it was going to be dawn and none would be visible anyways. It was a great experience, considering I hadn't been into watching anything for the past 3 years! Well, I guess I had different kind of stars in my eyes :-D. Anyways, Leonids are in November, so if possible (seeing the cold conditions and my conditon), I'll try and make it. There is also a comet in the sky right now (only need to wake up at 4 Am again to watch it), but the sky's been cloudy for a week now. So if and when I am awake, I'll try and catch it :). Meanwhile I actually found a video on Youtube of the Orionid showers (it seems repetitive, but its better than anything I could have photographed myself).

Thanks to YouTube and user briandjin2 for the video.

So long until next time and may the skies watch over you (or may you watch the skies :-D)...


Vanditha retorted...

Good one!! I guess, the teacher you are talking about is LH. If so, I too was fascinated about the Bermuda triangle thoughts and the idea of the physical look of the man, 1000s of years of later :p

Orchid retorted...

:) u really are into this whole astronomy thing in a big way, aren't you?? hope u wished for something good...don't they say meteors make ur wihes come true??

Deeps retorted...


Yeah you guessed right :). LH was the one :). He was amazing in outside-the-syllabus topics :-D.


Yup, shooting stars are supposed to grant wishes ;-). 25 did mean loads of wishes, lets see ;-) :-D.