So here I am working for NASA. Now, I never turned a wrench on a rocket...though I approved parts which went on rockets plenty. Mostly I'm a "Natural Environments" guy.
Normal Human: "What the heck does that mean?"
Me: "I'm a space weatherman."
Ok, so sometimes it storms. Meteor storms.
So a buddy of mine invented Video Meteography. This is the process of pointing a light-intensified camera at the sky and video taping for a few hours. Digitize the video and pick out things that change. You have to get rid of the bugs, the planes, the satellites, but sooner or later you are down to meteors. It helps if there is a storm going on, you get better results.
I've gone to Spain, I've gone to Reno, I've worked in the Lunar Observatory, I've been at the Von Braun. None of these have gone as planned- though many have worked out fine.
One of the most memorable events was working at the Von Braun Observatory for a Leonid meteor shower back... oh probably 2001. Now the camera we mounted up on the roof was so sensitive that we were constantly worried about burning it up. There were a lot of people gathered out on the lawn to watch the meteors with us and we warned them against using flashlights or any bright lights.
Three o' clock in the morning. I've had a thermos of Columbian coffee pitch black and I'm having trouble staying awake. I can't work outside anymore, since it is nice and quiet and the people working counting are lying on their backs...well... I'd just fall asleep.
SO, Leigh has me working with her inside the VBO, watching the monitor. We're only seeing a few degrees of sky, but we get more meteors than the people on the grass, since we can see tiny & faint meteors that the groundlings can't.
Suddenly, the screen goes completely white. I'm out of the chair and heading for the door. I'm going to find the A$$#*!& who decided to destroy our camera, drag him out of his car and beat him do death with the charred metal frame of the image intensifier.
"ooooohhhhhh" I hear the crowd outside applauding the biggest meteor they ever saw. I hit the off button on my temper and walk outside. The light of the meteor is bright enough to see by. There is still a giant S curve in the sky from the meteor trail and a crackle hiss like a breeze, though the air is still. It was amazing.
Most Meteor showers are pretty boring, but it is worth it to keep checking them out in the hopes you see something like this. I couldn't recover a picture, but I have one from the same day, same shower. Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD)
Explanation: This dramatic four-frame animation shows a fireball meteor and its developing persistent "smoke" train, recorded two weeks ago in skies near Salvador, Brazil. Indeed similar sights are astonishingly familiar world-wide to witnesses of this November's fireball-rich Leonid meteor storm. A few skygazers even discovered that some bright Leonid fireballs made faint, gentle, hissing sounds(!), a surprising effect only recently appreciated and understood. Accounts of fireball meteors making noise have long been viewed with skepticism, particularly because sounds were reportedly heard just as the meteor was seen overhead. But light travels much faster than sound so, like delayed thunder from a distant lightning stroke, a meteor produced sound should only be heard long after the meteor streak was seen. A sound explanation supported by laboratory tests is that turbulent plasma created by the meteor's passage generates very low frequency radio waves. Traveling at light speed the radio waves reach the ground simultaneously with visible light where they are strong enough to induce oscillating currents and audible vibrations in common objects like grass, leaves, wire-frame glasses, and perhaps even dry, frizzy hair.
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