Submit YOUR Meteor Counts to Science@NASA

One reason for the uncertainty about the 1998 Giacobinids is that scientists still have a lot to learn about meteor streams. We know that comets leave debris behind them, but does debris also precede the comet? This week we have a good chance to find out, because Earth will be passing by Giacobini's orbit in advance of the comet. So, we're inviting amateur meteor observers to go out on the night of October 8th, count the shooting stars they see, and report the data back to us at NASA. Even if you don't observe any meteors, your null result is valuable. It tells us how little debris is flying ahead of the comet. We'll post a summary of the results on our site before next month's Leonid meteor shower.

Before you rush outside to start counting, there are a few procedures we need review to ensure that the counts are scientifically meaningful. The number of meteors you see depends on the light pollution in your area, the altitude of the shower's radiant, whether or not the moon is up, etc. All these need to be recorded so we can make sense of the observations and compare results from different observers.

Place a reclining chair (a lawn chair is fine) in a dark site with an open view of the sky. Dress warmly! You will also need a dim, red-filtered flashlight and a watch. You can make notes with a notebook and a pencil, but a tape recorder is even better. The recorder will allow you to dictate notes in the dark without taking your eyes off the sky. Before you start real observing, give your eyes ten minutes to adjust to the dark. The moon will rise around 9 p.m., so at most Northern latitudes there are only two reasonably good dark sky hours. After the moon comes up only the brightest meteors will be visible.

Each time you see a meteor, make a check mark on your notepad or a comment on the voice recorder. Every ten minutes note the time.

For your counts to be meaningful it is absolutely necessary to establish the "limiting magnitude" of your night sky. In other words, what is the dimmest star you can see? For the Giacobinid meteor shower the best way to check your limiting magnitude is to look at the little dipper. This image from Sky & Telescope shows the magnitudes of stars in the little dipper. Simply note the magnitude of the dimmest star you can see. That's your limiting magnitude.

Submit your Data!
Fill in the form below. Be sure to give your name and email address, the limiting magnitude of your night sky, and meteor counts every ten minutes for the duration of your observations. If you don't know your latitude and longitude, leave that field blank. Simply enter the city and state nearest to the place you made your observations.

Your Name:southpo
Email Address:southpo
School or Organization:southpo
Latitude & Longitude:southpo
nearest City & State:southpo

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