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Geminid meteor goes the wrong way.

  1. Dec 24, 2012 #1
    My wife, myself and another viewer were watching the Geminid meteor shower at about 2:00 AM on 23 December, 2012. Most of the meteors moved away from the constellation Gemini, just as one would expect.

    We decided to watch a region of the sky where the meteor trails were very long. I am not sure in which direction that was. However, it was very far from the Gemini constellation.

    At one point, we saw two meteors which moved in opposite directions. The first meteor moved in a direction roughly away from the Gemini constellation. Almost immediately after this meteor disappeared, another meteor appeared in roughly the same place moving in the exact opposite direction. It was hard to determine, but it appeared like the two trails were very briefly visible at the same time.

    The viewer with us said, "I didn't know they could move in different directions like that." I didn't know they could do that either. We didn't discuss it. I was driving, half way home, when it started to bother me.

    The two meteors were similar in brightness and duration. They were a bit dim compared to other meteors that we had seen in that part of the sky. They were moving in fairly straight lines. There was no noticeable curvature in their paths. I did not see any other anomalies that night.

    Can anyone suggest a possible explanation for the meteor that went the wrong way?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 24, 2012 #2


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    Maybe a lucky coincidence, another meteor appeared at the same time?
    Another possibility would an object which broke apart in the atmosphere. If those fragments move towards you, they can have nearly any direction in the sky, even if their true (3-dimensional) directions are very similar.
  4. Dec 24, 2012 #3
    The problem wasn't that they appeared at nearly the same time. The problem is that one of them was going the "wrong" way.

    If they were headed toward us, the tails would have appeared extremely short. These tails appeared significantly long. Remember, I said we were looking at a part of the sky where the tails were longest.

    The part of the sky is unknown. I am not an astronomer. I had gotten lost just previously to finding that park.The only two constellations that I recognized easily was Orion and Gemini. I memorized the shape of Gemini before going out, and Orion is very easy to recognize. I would say that the meteors in question were far to the left of the Orion constellation. The two meteors and Gemini were on opposite sides of the zenith. The two meteors were just above the horizon. I would say that the two meteors were about 30 to 40 degrees above the horizon. The reason that the tails were so long was that the sighting was made very far from Gemini. Since the tails were long, I assume that both meteors were both far from their "axles".

    They were sufficiently far apart that we could distinguish between the two tails. The tails were close to parallel. They were both going slow enough that we could easily see the direction. The first meteor was going in the right direction, which is away from the Gemini constellation. The second meteor was moved in the wrong direction. It also had a long tail. Therefore, I don't think they were headed for us.

    It did read that there were actually two meteor showers occurring that night. One shower was the Geminids, and one was a cluster of meteors that has been recently discovered. I conjecture that the second meteor could have been from the second cluster. However, what I read gave me no idea what area in the sky the second cluster would be coming from.

    That was the only anomalous sighting that night. Or maybe there were others, but we didn't recognize them. The first meteor provided a pretty good reference angle for the second. So being able to see the first meteor made it easier to recognize that the second meteor was moving in the wrong direction. That both of them came almost simultaneously was probably a coincidence. However, sighting the second meteor moving in the wrong direction may have been conditional on sighting the first meteor moving in the right direction.

    It would help if I knew more about the second meteor shower that was supposed to be falling at the same time. The newspaper article claimed that the meteors in the second shower were moving significantly slower. I didn't have any way to clock it. However, the second one appeared to be moving the same speed as the first meteor. There was no other information on the second meteor shower that I could find.

    1) From what constellation was the second meteor shower coming from?

    There are some explanations that I would tend to reject. I reject the notion that the second was some type of vehicle. These were no two aircraft playing "chicken". The second meteor appeared, left a trail, and vanished. It looked like any other meteor seen that night.

    There did not seem to be any way our mental processes were biased. The two meteors were sufficiently far from each other to distinguish. I will reject any explanation that it was an optical illusion. I don't think that our minds would interpret a second meteor moving in the same direction as a meteor moving in the opposite direction.

    However, it could have been an optical effect. An optical effect is a phenomenon where the light is actually directed in different directions so that the perceived image is distorted. It doesn't occur in the mind, and can be photographed.

    The two meteors were not far from the horizon. So the light passed through significant amounts of atmosphere compared to the meteors at zenith. So may there was some atmospheric inhomogeneity that produced a second image of the first meteor. Maybe the second meteor was some type of "mirage". So:

    2) Are there any atmospheric effects that could make the optical image of a meteor split into two?

    No, we were not drinking or smoking anything. I felt awake. My companions sounded alert. We were not anticipating anything like that.
  5. Dec 24, 2012 #4


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    Meteors which are not related to the geminid meteors can go in any direction.

    Depends on the height they reach. Ok, based on your description, it appears unlikely.

    A horizontal mirror image of a meteor? Hmmhmm...
  6. Dec 24, 2012 #5


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    Sounds like an unrelated meteor to me.
  7. Dec 24, 2012 #6


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    Did it change after midnite?
  8. Dec 25, 2012 #7
    That is what I now think. To be specific, it was a meteor unrelated to the Geminid meteor shower. It was a coincidence that it was moving in an apparent direction toward the Gemini constellation.
  9. Dec 28, 2012 #8


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    even during a shower there will still be random meteors entering the earths atmosphere
    just because there's a specific shower in progress doesnt mean that all the other random meteors suddenly stop for a period of time

  10. Jan 2, 2013 #9
    Probably coma berenicids.
  11. Feb 16, 2013 #10
    I observed that unusual meteor shower as well. It appears to be a new, previously undiscovered shower, and from what I could ascertain, it has not yet been identified or named; though given the info I have so far: they should be called the Pisceads or Pleidians.
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2013
  12. Feb 17, 2013 #11
    I hope this isn't impertinent, Darwin123, but are you using language translation software for your posts? (I ask because I'm a software engineer.)

    And nosy ...
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2013
  13. Feb 17, 2013 #12
    No I am not. Or at least I don't know if I am. I am typing my messages in the President's English.

    Some of the replies come from a respondents from other countries where English is not the official language. I don't know if they are using translation software or not.

    What makes you think that I am using language software?

    I have been dinged from moderators for things that I know are correct. I keep on getting dinged for posting nonsense, with no explanation. I would love to be able to blame it on language software !-)

    Maybe you are talking about my editing past typing errors. I sometime make typing errors. Sometimes, I even make spelling errors. When I notice a bad error, even one that I made long ago, I punch the editing button to correct it. No one has yet complained to me about that. So I have assumed it is alright.
  14. Feb 17, 2013 #13
    I hope my question wasn't insulting; I had no such intention. Something about the syntax reminded me of correspondence with a Japanese friend we who doesn't speak English, but instead uses such software. Specifically, once you used the pronoun 'it' rather than other personal pronoun 'I,' a mistake her software occasionally makes. I'm sure I've made the same mistake myself as a typo.

    Also, your posts are very logical and direct. I must be spending too much time on the interwebs when I don't expect those attributes from people.

    This conversation is off topic, and being new to PF, I'd rather not get immediately into trouble. So, thanks for answering, and now I'll moonwalk back from the thread ... :-)
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