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Camelopardalid and March Geminid Meteor Showers Peak on March 22

Article written: 21 Mar , 2008
Updated: 26 Dec , 2015
by

There’s another two odd meteor showers about to happen. It’s just after Full Moon. Why bother to take a look at the night sky when chances are poor of seeing a meteor? The reason is clear and the cause is confirmation.

On Saturday, March 22, two meteor showers will grace the moonlit evening sky. We’ll start first with the Camelopardalids. These have no definite peak, and a screaming fall rate of only one per hour. They do have one claim to fame however – these are the slowest meteors known – arriving at a speed of only 7 kilometers per second. Any bright streaks you might see belonging to the Camelopardalids will appear to emanate from the north.

Far more interesting will be to watch for the peak of the March Geminids. These were first discovered and recorded in 1973, then confirmed in 1975. With a much improved fall rate of about 40 per hour, these slightly faster meteors will greatly increase your chance of spotting a shooting star. Like the Camelopardalids, the March Geminds are slower than average and will seem to emanate from directly overhead at skydark. But don’t forget to start early before the Moon rises. The moonlight alone will reduce the number of meteors you see by a factor of about 10. The lunar influence causes fewer disturbances if it’s only a few degrees above the horizon, so you have a brief window of opportunity to study this particular stream.

You can make an important contribution by observing when possible. Since the shower wasn’t reported until 1973 and confirmed by a high rate of activity 2 years later, scientists aren’t really sure if the Earth had passed through that particular particle stream until that time. By observing and reporting, even to sources like Universe Today, you are providing an invaluable internet record to help determine if the stream is genuine. It the March Geminids truly are a viable annual shower, this trail might lead to an undiscovered comet.

If you wish to report your findings elsewhere, please visit the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers (ALPO) and locate the meteor observing tab. In these pages you will also find links to information from the North American Meteor Network (NAMN), and other things to assist you like charts to understand the meteor’s magnitude, the limiting magnitude of your location, and details for recording what you see and how to fill out an observation report. While it’s certainly true you may see absolutely nothing during an hour of observing at skydark, negative observations are also important. This helps to establish if the March Geminids should be considered an annual shower or not. You may also just happen to step outside at the right time and see a flurry of activity as well. Just remember…

When opportunity knocks, you’ve got to be there to open the door!

Tammy was a professional astronomy author, President Emeritus of Warren Rupp Observatory and retired Astronomical League Executive Secretary. She’s received a vast number of astronomy achievement and observing awards, including the Great Lakes Astronomy Achievement Award, RG Wright Service Award and the first woman astronomer to achieve Comet Hunter’s Gold Status.

(Tammy passed away in early 2015… she will be missed)


17 Responses

  1. Here we go again – telling people to go out just after full moon, to hope for two meteor showers so obscure that they aren’t even on this year’s working list for serious observers, let alone the IAU list of established showers …

    As I warned before, articles like this – especially when based on outdated information – are likely to do harm to the beautiful field of meteor observing by raising hopes at very wrong times. For reference here is a recent conference report on what’s really going on in meteor astronomy.

  2. nolan eishi says

    I wonder if Daniel read the same article I did? It’s very clear in the article that you may not see massive amounts (or in fact, any) meteors. The reasons to observe are listed in the article. “Serious observers” might want to skip reading the article and stick to “established” showers….

  3. marcellus says

    You know what, Daniel? There might actually be some “serious observers” out there checking out the Full Moon for their Lunar I or Lunar II certificates, or doing work on double and/or variable stars. Information like Tammy just put out would be not only valuable, but greatly appreciated.

  4. Hi Tammy (since you asked via the comments instead of via pm – isn’t that why you have to enter your mail address? – I reply this way as well),

    check out my homepage for some background (and prizes won, which seems to count a lot for American astronomers): I’m a science writer since 1982, an amateur astronomer since 1977 or so, and a member of several astronomical organizations. Including the Arbeitskreis Meteore in Germany since 2000 – that’s why I’m so eager to get more people to observe meteors, which you will only achieve by giving them the right advice.

    The last major scientific venture was participating in the Aurigid MAC campaign as a groundbased parallel observer in California – and right now I’m heavily involved in Germany’s IYA activities. I’m also on the IYA Task Group for the (global) Cornerstone 4, The Portal To The Universe, which will “make history” as our chairman just mailed to the core team. 🙂

  5. Leanna Stead says

    As for my part, I’m interested in the opportunity to help with the observation of this Geminid shower. I checked the IAU list you gave, Daniel and, while I appreciate your point of view, I can’t help but find it unnecessarily cynical.

    To my way of thinking, a “serious observer” would be out there before anyone else — if for no other reason than to have an opportunity to contribute to a potential discovery. Try to nurture a little enthusiasm for the unknown as well as the known. 🙂

  6. Am I really the only one who has experienced how painful (no kidding!) it is to be out for meteors during or very close to full moon? I’ve done it three times, for the sake of meteor science (kind of): during the 2002 Leonid storm (knowing it would be the last one), the 2003 Perseids (as a visual reference for measurements with a new video system) and the 2006 Aurigids (being unique in our lifetime).

    Trust me, it is no fun whatsoever to stare into a bright blue sky which the full moon (talk opposition effect here, with additional brightness) invariably causes, unless you are in high mountains. Plus the loss of meteors seen visually is tremendous as it goes with a high power of the limiting magnitude. No serious observer will go out on such a night – trust me – unless something will a potentially high rate is in the offering.

    Visual data taken near full moon are scientifically useless in nearly all cases, unless something special is going on. And there is no such activity around now, period! Of course, you can have unexpected outbursts of unknown showers at any time: That’s why so much effort can gone into the video network which cares far less how bright the moon is – and is delivering bigtime already.

    The IMO visual and video results are in the process of being merged into the ‘final’ IAU list, so in a few years we’ll have a really reliable guide as never before. Until then it is

    – a bad idea to call for people to go out near full moon to wait for meteors (unless a huge outburst has some likelyhood),

    – a very bad idea to do so when the rates expected are low, and

    – an extremely bad idea to do so for meteor showers that do not – in all likelyhood – exist.

    Now: Who’s the cynic here, the writer of the original article with the bad advice or the critic trying to set the record straight, again …?

  7. Tammy Plotner says

    Just out of curiousity, Daniel, do you work for any professional astronomy organizations, serve on councils or boards for amateur observers, administer to a public observatory, have won any major observing or astronomy achievement awards, or report your findings professionally?

    If so, I would be very interested to personally hear from you where we can privately discuss your viewpoints. I will be happy to provide you with my telephone number.

  8. Brad says

    ouch! Lets not look for a cancer cure because it might not exist and besides there is all that other body tissue in the way.

  9. Tammy Plotner says

    In this case, I would very much appreciate reader comments on whether or not I should continue to report minor meteor shower occurences. The reason I asked Daniel to call me is because I do not want UT readers to be discouraged if they don’t see any members of a particular meteor shower and give up on the great science of meteor observing. In other words, he has a very valid point and I take his words to heart.

    On the other hand, I have knowledge to share and many venues in which to share it. To me, any excuse to be out under the night sky is a good one. I like knowing if I do see something unexpected, just what it is. I also happen to like knowing there’s more meteor showers than just the Perseids and Leonids. But then… That’s just me.

    If UT readers enjoy seeing articles such as this one, I will be happy to continue to report on minor meteor showers and ones that need further study. If you would prefer that I only reported ones like you might see in your local news, I can also do that. It is the opinion of the majority that speaks the loudest.

    Daniel? It was not my intention to offend you, sir. Apparently you are very well educated and I only seek your personal thoughts. I read your words very carefully – especially after the last time – and I tried my best to not introduce hyperbole into this article since it is a minor event.

    Now, I gotta’ run. It’s dark and clear…. And I don’t want to miss that knock!

  10. Mike says

    Hi,

    at around 9pm CST I observed a nice, bright, slow moving fireball over the downtown dallas skyline. It was a site to see! Going out to look for more.

    Mike

  11. Rick VonBargen says

    Greetings,
    I live about 70 miles SE of Dallas near Eustace and as I walked out the front door to walk the dog I too saw a nice, slow bright yellow meteor streaking across the sky from north to south. I called the wife out to watch for more then heading indoors to look online for any reports of it. I had hoped someone else saw it and that I could find some info on it. Thanks Mike! It’s too bright to stargaze with the telescope tonight but I’m gonna go watch for more “shooting stars”. I didn’t know of these showers you mentioned above so thanks for the info ya’ll.

  12. Now fireballs – which one can see regardless of the lunar phase, of course – are a very different story: If you see one (whether when walking your dog or while observing at your telescope) make immediate records of the time, its trajectory among the stars or relative to landmarks and report it to your national meteor organization!

    Those events are usually unrelated to meteor showers but could, in rare cases, be related to dropping meteorites. And every careful witness counts when it comes to calculating where they may have ended up, especially when there are no videos or photographs.

    Just based on five eye and ear (!) witnesses a German meteorite specialist managed to triangulate a strewnfield in Spain last year was the first to find meteorites there, as he reported last weekend at a conference.

  13. Tammy Plotner says

    I also went out last night.

    Loction: 40.6690°N, 82.9100°W
    Times: UT 00:30:00 to 02:30 23/03/08
    15 day Moon – LM 5 Temp. 33F

    2 mag 4 meteors, 5-7 degrees of trail – Geminid radiant. (01:45:00 & 02:10:00). Both moved from zenith/ecliptic to southwest

    2 random UT 01:09:00 – mag. 3 – 15 degrees of trail – point of origin near 11hr moving SE
    01:50:00 – mag 4, 5 degree trail, origin near -20, possibly 9th hour. moving NW

    Note: There simply wasn’t enough activity to plot a radiant for those appearing to originate from the Gemini area. They could have simply been random, but both came from a relative position of approximate +15 near the 7H. LM dropped by over a full magnitude over the observing period.

    Personal Note: M44 and M42 easily visible unaided at the beginning of session, as was the group of 14, 16, 18, 19 and AR Aurigae. Iota Leonis remained visible during session.
    ******************************************

    It was totally worth going outside for. The triple red treat of Antares, Betelgeuse and Mars formed a great triangle that seemed to point towards Sirius. When I started picking out some deep sky objects unaided, I really wanted to get a scope out! After all, it would be so easy to see things like M36, M37, M38, M35, M67, M81, M82, and more… But I stayed put. It was so hard not to go look at Saturn and Mars!

    Anyhow, I’m glad for your input, Daniel. If nothing else we got a few people out and looking towards the stars last night – and that’s a reward all on its own.

  14. Leanna Stead says

    I feel rather behind coming here now, but did want to mention that I did not intend my comment as an offense, Daniel, but rather as a simple statement of my feelings. Please accept my apologies for that, as well as my thanks for your input. I’ve viewed your blog as well as the other links you provided, and look forward to learning a great deal.

    I’m just starting out in this, really. I don’t know much at this stage though, as I read and keep up with the latest news, I will find resources and information to help me learn as I go along.

    In keeping with that — Tammy, I’m grateful to you for posting this! For my part, I don’t mind standing outside looking for something that isn’t quite certain. Even if I don’t see a thing, which I didn’t — a combination between possible light interference, just missing the time window and not knowing what to look for — any excuse to be outside, looking at the stars, is enough. With sufficient practice and time, I know I’ll be able to see a lot of amazing sights and report them when necessary.

    Thanks again for all your input — both to you, Daniel, and you, Tammy. This time I put the link to my online journal behind my name, where you can see some of my public writings if you’re interested (though they aren’t purely astronomical).

  15. Leanna Stead says

    Hi, Tammy 🙂

    I’m very glad to know you’ve visited, and I look forward to hearing from you should you choose to comment! I have been making more of a point to write public entries that allow those without a password to be up-to-date on my thoughts, if not my best essays and/or poems.

    One of my more competent essays, however, *is* public. If you’d like to read it, you can reach it by clicking the “In Memoriam” link at the top of the page and following the link path from there.

  16. Tammy Plotner says

    Hello, Leanna!

    I read your site. You and I have a suprising amount in common, for I also have an on-line journal as well that probably spans 7 years by now. It used to be purely astronomical observations – but somehow my life crept into it as time progressed. It probably isn’t to a lot of folks tastes because you’ll get a lot of hard core observing – and then what it’s like to be me.

    Keep reaching for the stars, kiddo. All our hopes and dreams are out there!

  17. Member

    Hello, Leanna!

    What a beautiful piece. You have to know it really touched a chord. Writing is not something you do… It’s who you are.

    I’ve updated my thingie so you can get a more responsive email address and you are always welcome to write. You have a lot of talent waiting to blossom!

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