Orionid Meteor Shower

Phil frames a colorful end to the day October 21st. We were out in the Flint Hills to watch the Orionid meteor shower which was predicted to peak the next morning. Clouds are not a great start and it took longer than I expected for the skies to clear. I didn’t see any Orionid meteors until after 2am local time. Activity was a bit low, I saw a few dozen Orionids before the sky got brighter from the last crescent moon. Then I crashed until almost noon.

Saturday night was clouded out in the area, which is unfortunate. Days later after reading other observer reports it appears the Orionid meteor shower was more active at a later date/time then would be forecast.

Dark Skies: more meteors

I spent many an hour just laying back and observing the stars at the Okie-Tex star party this year. And its amazing the difference a really dark sky makes for meteor observing. If you check the Clear Sky clock for Kenton Oklahoma you’ll find the light pollution is listed as class 1 on the Bortle scale. Hard to get much darker than this.

One gets lost when they first gaze on a sky this dark, the number of stars you can see is overwhelming. You can’t find familiar constellations! And if you patiently watch for awhile you’ll see a consistent stream of faint meteors. Most of these are sporadic in nature but occasionally you’ll get a member of a meteor shower.

Such was the case when I saw my first Draconid meteor Wednesday night. A bright one it slowly streaked across the NW sky. Not only did it come from the right spot it had the tell tale slow speed. Awesome. Despite the nearly full moon and poor timing I’ll be watching tonight for more Draconids. Suggestions are they could have an abnormal peak ZHR and these kinds of events are a bit unpredictable. Nobody knows what you’ll see but you have to go out and look.

Update: A Draconid outburst did occur just as predicted. Had one been in Europe or Asia it would have been a very nice show, even with the moon out! I also note that the actual peak is close to what Meteor Shower Guide calculated +/- 1 hour.

Meteor Shower Guide 1.2

The latest version of Meteor Shower Guide has been submitted to the App Store. Awaiting approval it should be released by the end of the week. So what’s new?

Calendar Events: on each shower detail page is an Alert button that when tapped inserts an all day event into the default Calendar. This event has two alarms set, one and two days ahead of the meteor shower peak day.

Catalog rollover: at the end of the meteor Catalog list is a new item that increments the meteor shower list to the next year. This is handy and also eliminates the need, as far as I’m concerned, to save a starting calendar year for the app.

IAU Numbers: the meteor shower data set has been updated to include the International Astronomical Union (IAU) meteor numbers. While reviewing all the data I found two showers had incorrect IMO codes, this was corrected.

These new features combined with a few internal bug fixes brings Meteor Shower Guide development for the iPhone to a stable point. The next big phase is the design and creation of an iPad specific version that takes full advantage the screen size. But before that even gets started its almost time for the Okie-Tex Star Party!

Update 09/14: Apple approved version 1.2, its available in the app store now. Everybody should update their copy.

App Update

Version 1.1 of Meteor Shower Guide has been uploaded to Apple and waiting for review. It will go live the moment they approve it. This release fixes a bug in the advanced catalog selection, can’t believe the error got by in the first place.

New in this version is a small bar graph to highlight a showers relative strength. I’ve also tweaked the catalog font so major meteor showers stand out a bit more.

The Perseid meteor shower peaked last weekend and I never saw a one! Interesting to read the reports on the meteor observer list, seems the intensity was a bit lower this year. Frankly I’m not sure how you can accurately judge the shower by eye with the full moon out.

Meteor Shower Guide Approved

The wait is over, early this morning Apple approved my app. Now the iPhone has a respectable meteor shower reference. You can read a bit more on the support page.

Don’t have an iPhone? An app is available on the Android platform from Chris Wilcox. This has a ‘feature’ I don’t like but understand the motivation for: ads. Another app is available for Windows 7 mobile but I have no idea how well it works or what data it contains (let me know if you try it out).

Obviously I’m pretty biased but I don’t think any other meteor shower app has all the features of Meteor Shower Guide. Now that version 1.0 is released I can start incorporating new features into future releases.

The Waiting Begins

Last year I searched for a iPhone meteor shower app and what I found was pretty poor. Pathetic actually. So I decided to write one myself. Thus began a journey that has taken up much, no, all of my spare time the past months.

In the beginning I had grand ideas carried over from an unfinished web project. Along the way I scaled back my expectations. I don’t have the expertise yet. Just learning the intricacies and quirks of Objective-C was enough to keep me busy for many months. This has been fun, I’ve not been so immersed in code and algorithms as this for a long, long time. I focused my attention and skills on a simple goal: write the best meteor shower app.

Over this time I have learned much more than I ever knew about meteor showers. I can’t even count the number of technical articles I’ve read on them. Sometimes I wonder if that has changed my outlook. Before I simply enjoyed watching them, perhaps trying to capture them in a photograph. Now I ponder how to incorporate various data points into a table, how to quantify the duration of a meteor showers peak, why there is conflicting data on shower timing and intensity.

Tonight though I’m happy to say I have submitted version 1.0 of Meteor Shower Guide for approval in the Apple app store. The waiting for approval begins.

eta Aquariids

First Flint Hills trip in 2011 and I doubt we could have had a better night that Thursday the 5th of May. The sky was crystal clear, very light wind with moderate temperatures. For a change I setup north of Tetter’s rock, by a lone Osage Orange tree. Click the little picture on the right to see a larger version (looking south, note rock in distance).

The reason for my trip was the eta Aquariids meteor shower. I had never seen this meteor shower and my calculations (more on that in the future) suggested it would peak the morning of May 6th, shortly after sunrise . With a nearly new moon and clear skies the conditions were as good as they could be.

The eta Aquariids are remnants of Hally’s Comet. The radiants location in the sky and time of year heavily favors southern observers (south like Venezuela!). Never the less one never knows, you have to go out and watch to see what develops. There is not much to report, the shower is weak from +38 latitude. I did not see a single eta Aquariid meteor until about 3:00am. Which is expected. All together I noted 10 eta Aquariid meteors before darkness officially ended at 4:30 CDT.