You can help locate meteoroids

On Friday night/Saturday morning, August 31/September 1, there will be an outburst meteor shower. An outburst is a sudden, short burst of a lot of meteors, Aurigids in this case. This is debris left over from the 2000-year-period comet Kiess, and the Earth doesn’t pass through the meteor stream very often so they're very difficult to predict. But the best guess just now is that there will be about 200 meteors visible per hour at the peak -- but the peak comes at 4:36 AM Pacific Daylight Time, which means that it won't be visible from anywhere but the western United States and Hawaii.

The Aurigid Laptop Meteor Observation Project will use the Internet to accomplish something that has never been done before: combine the observations of thousands of people in order to build a three-dimensional map of a meteor stream. For all of history, meteors have been observed by independent observers, giving us an ant's-eye view of the forest. But with the Internet, the ants can combine their observations and, for the first time in history, we'll be able to see the whole forest at once!

The technology required is trivial: a laptop and a pair of eyeballs. All you do is watch the meteors and click the mouse whenever you see a meteor. A small Java applet records the time of your mouseclicks into a file. The next day, you email that file to the project coordinators, and they put it into a monster program that combines all the observations of all the people and builds a satellites-eye-view movie of where the meteors hit. The results will be available for everybody.

To participate, download the Aurigid program onto your laptop. On meteor night, you go outside at the right time, lie down, face East, turn on your laptop, and launch the Aurigid program. Whenever you see a meteor, you click the mouse. Observe meteors for as long as you want. When you're done, quit the Aurigid program and shut down your laptop. The next day, type your longitude and latitude into the log file, and email it to us. That's all it takes. Here are detailed instructions.

You can find more information on the Aurigid outburst at the NASA/SETI web page here.


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