25 April 2005

The Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower

Quote for the day:

"A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."
German born American physicist
(1879 - 1955)

The peak of the annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower arrives the night of May 4/5.

May 4/5 2005 Eta Aquarid Radiant Posted by Hello
Photo credit: Astronomy Magazine

The Eta Aquarid’s are one of two annual meteor showers associated with debris released by Comet 1P/Halley, the other is the October Orionids. During its passages around the Sun, Halley's nucleus ejects tons of dust particles. When Earth runs into this debris stream every May and October, friction with molecules in our atmosphere causes the particles to flare; creating the streaks of light we call meteors.

From the Northern Hemisphere observed rates typically run 10 to 20 meteors per hour. In the Southern Hemisphere, however, this shower ranks among the best of the year with up to 60 meteors per hour. The meteors will appear to come from a point in the constellation of Aquarius. Eta Aquarid meteors tend to be swift, slamming into the atmosphere at 145,000 mph, and leave persistent trails, so it's worth getting up early May 5 to take a look.

Here’s an interesting project especially for those of us that have high speed dial up – not the whopping 44kb speed my phone line affords me, that’s for sure!

More than 100,000 computers are now running Einstein at Home the computer screensaver that lets you help astrophysicists search for gravity waves from spinning neutron stars. A program that uses your computer's idle time to search for spinning neutron stars (also called pulsars) using data from the LIGO and GEO gravitational wave detectors. Einstein@home is a World Year of Physics 2005 project supported by the American Physical Society (APS) and by a number of international organizations.

After several months of testing, they are 'throwing open the doors' for general participation. If you would like to take part, please go to Einstein at Home.

Happy star watching – may your skies be clear and unfettered with light pollution.



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