Meteors put on a show

Posted: Tuesday, November 17, 1998

The weatherman suggests looking south, the astronomer to the north, the radio announcer to the east and the city guy to the west.

Maybe ``up'' is the simplest advice.

``They were all over,'' said Lt. Ron Forneris of the Juneau Police Department.

``They'' refers to the meteors showering the sky as pieces of the tail of Comet Tempel-Tuttle provide stargazers with their best such show in three decades. Forneris said somebody on the radio suggested listeners look east, but just about all directions were good from his downtown home early this morning.

Juneau isn't the best place in the world to view the sky debris. That honor goes to Asia, but locals say there is still plenty of action.

City Transit Manager John Kern didn't see much when he got up at 2:30 a.m. today to look for the meteors, but a couple hours later the view in the western sky was more lively.

``At 4:30 there were a number of them. If you counted out a minute you were guaranteed to see at least one,'' he said. He woke his family to watch from the back deck of his Mendenhall Valley home at about 5 a.m., when one or two meteors per minute were passing through the sky.

Those hoping to catch a glimpse of what's called the Leonid meteor shower are advised to do so early this evening, since clouds are expected to move into the area tonight, said Bob Tschantz, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Juneau. The meteor ``storm'' is also expected to disappear in the coming days.

Tschantz said the best viewing is after midnight in the southern half of the sky, but ``I actually saw them all over the quadrants'' during his overnight shift Monday.

The meteors' position in the sky changes as the Earth rotates during the night, but they were generally coming from the north, said Michael Orelove, a volunteer for the Marie Drake Planetarium. He said the meteors appeared to be behind Mount Roberts when he observed them at 11 p.m. Monday from Sandy Beach. But by the optimum viewing time of 4 a.m. today, they appeared to be more ``up the channel,'' the downtown resident said.

Orelove said if the sky is still clear at 5 or 6 tonight, people should be able to see meteors, even if they live in a well-lit area.

``The city lights are not a major impediment,'' he said.

The police department received a few calls overnight Monday, Forneris said. He said he didn't get to talk to the overnight dispatchers, but there weren't any unusual reports such as UFO sightings on the books.

``I think people were just asking about whether there was a meteor shower,'' he said. ``That's what typically happens.''

Paysha Stockton contributed to this report.

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