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June General Meeting

Dr. Peter Jenniskens on Meteor Showers and their Parent Comets

Mike Koop and Peter Jenniskens


Dr. Peter Jenniskens of The SETI Institute will be our speaker for the June General Meeting. Dr. Jenniskens is well known to the Bay Area Meteor community, often leading coordinated meteor observing efforts at our local sites. He was the Principal Investigator on the Leonid Multi Aircraft Campaign missions and the recent successful Stardust SRC Entry Observing Campaign. Spectacular displays of 'shooting stars’ are created when the Earth’s orbit crosses a meteoroid stream, as each meteoroid causes a bright light when it enters our atmosphere at high speed. Hear how meteoroid streams originate from the decay of meteoroids, comets and asteroids, and how they cause meteor showers on Earth. The talk will include findings of recent space missions to comets and asteroids, the risk of meteor impacts on Earth, and how meteor showers may have seeded the Earth with ingredients that made life possible. Join us in the hall at Houge Park starting at 8 PM.

Since 1994, SJAA members have been part of a great exploration of space, a quest to predict the return of meteor showers. The fabulous storms of history were long thought to be more elusive than the weather and more difficult to predict. Many professional astronomers would start their career during a Perseid shower, soon to turn attention to more profitable problems such as Black Holes and the Age of the Universe. Meteor showers were the realm of amateur astronomers. Among those sacrificing a night’s sleep in the middle of the week and at awkward times in the year were members of SJAA. Our target: meteor outbursts, the unusual showers that occur when Earth travels through one of the recent dust trails of comets. And we were successful. We observed the outbursts of the Perseid shower in 1994 and 1997, the Ursids in 2000, and the Leonids in many years. This culminated in the great expeditions that set out to observe the Leonid storms of 1998 - 2002.

Meteor astronomer Jenniskens will speak about his new book “Meteor showers and their parent comets” published by Cambridge University Press, due out in early July, which narrates these past observing campaigns and explains what we have learned from past meteor outbursts and what to expect from the showers yet to come.


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