A meteor and the barred spiral galaxy NGC-2903 grace the top of this October 14 image of an area of space near the head of the constellation Leo. The meteor and the galaxy were purely coincidental, as it is what is not visible in the image that is important. Two telescopes operated by astronomers at the Marshall Space Flight Center just stopped scanning the skies for Comet Elenin, which began fading and breaking apart back in August. Its close approach to the Sun on September 10 apparently caused the comet to disintegrate even further, into objects so small they are unable to be seen by ground-based telescopes like the 20″ instrument which took this picture. An anticlimatic end to the so-called “Comet of Doom”, with only empty space to mark its close approach (22 million miles) to Earth.
By the way, the galaxy NGC-2903 is 30 million light years distant from our own Milky Way.
Photo credit: Rhiannon Blaauw, Rob Suggs
Baby, it’s cold outside — but you can still enjoy the best meteor shower of the year. The 2010 Geminid meteor shower promises to be lively, with realistic viewing rates of 50-80 meteors per hour and potential peaks reaching 120 meteors per hour. Anytime between Dec. 12-16 is a valid window for Geminid-watching, but the night of Dec. 13-14 is the anticipated peak.
You have two opportunities to learn more about the Geminids from meteor experts based at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. On Monday, Dec. 13 from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. EST, meteor experts Danielle Moser and Rhiannon Blaauw will answer your questions, then you can stay “up all night” to observe the Geminids with NASA astronomer Bill Cooke. Have the coffee ready, then join them online from 11:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. EST as the Geminids peak in the skies over Earth.
Joining the chats is easy. Simply go to https://www.nasa.gov/connect/chat/geminids2010.html a few minutes before each of the chat start times list above. The chat module will appear at the bottom of this page. After you log in, wait for the chat module to be activated, then ask your questions. Here’s to a spectacular viewing!
False-color composite view of 2008 Geminid meteor shower is courtesy of Bill Cooke, NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center.