www.whyville.net Dec 16, 1999 Weekly Issue

Citizens Alert!

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Citizens Alert!
Geminid Invasion

by eugene,or
Guest Columnist

As you innocent Whyvillians go about your daily concerns, worrying about your face and your next tiki vacation, a wild upheaval is occurring in the skies above you!

A meteor shower (otherwise known as shooting stars) can be seen at night (obviously), just above Orion's left shoulder. Even though it has been going on for about a week and will continue to go on for a few more days, the best time to see it was Monday and Tuesday night of this week.

There may be as many as one shooting star every half minute. Best viewing time, though, is after 10:00 p.m. (Pacific Standard Time) and I was already in bed by then, so I can't give a first-hand account. If you are a very disciplined and adventurous Whyvillian, you could get up before dawn and see it, too.

It's a little scary (I think) because NASA is not sure WHAT EXACTLY is causing this meteor shower. They think it is an "object" (!!!) called 3200 Phaethon that will be "plunging" into Earth's orbit! A little scary that they don't know what kind of "object" it is, isn't it? Well, at any rate, they don't seem too worried, so I guess I'll stop panicking. It's probably just an old shoe or something that some careless astronaut dropped. I don't know how an old shoe would cause meteor sparks, but that's something to ask Dr. Leila, I guess.

As far as I can figure out, the reason why it's called the "Geminid" is that it's in the place in the sky where you can also see constellation Gemini. Also, it sounds like this thing happens every year (??!!) -- don't ask me how NASA can figure out when an astronaut is going to forget and leave an "object" up in space, but I guess they can. I guess it's like with my kids, they're always leaving something at school, it's almost mathematically predictable.

Anyway, if you want to know more, go to the website http://www.geminids.com/. And if, like me, you aren't too good at finding things in the night sky, I would really recommend a wonderful book called "Nightwatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe" by Terence Dickinson. This is the book I have used to learn the many, many constellations (about 6) that I can now identify, and it's really easy to use, if you're not a Big Brain, like Sahuboy, for instance.


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