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Why Are the Best Times to Observe Meteors Between Midnight and Dawn?

14 Dec 2015, 13:04 UTC
Why Are the Best Times to Observe Meteors Between Midnight and Dawn?
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Question: Why are all the best times for viewing meteor showers between midnight and dawn? As I imagine looking down on the solar system from above, I think of a stream of comet debris as impacting all of our outward-facing atmosphere (away from the sun) uniformly at the same time. Why isn’t it as good as soon as it becomes dark? — Steve
Answer: The main reason that the best viewing times are between midnight and dawn is due to the orientation between your location on the Earth’s surface and the direction of travel of the Earth in its orbit. Starting around midnight your location on the Earth’s surface spins around to the forward-facing half of Earth, relative to the direction that the Earth is travelling in its orbit around the Sun. At dawn, your location on the Earth’s surface is pointed straight in the direction of the Earth’s travel in its orbit. Therefore, between midnight and dawn you are moving head-on through the location of the meteors in space, which means that you will, on average, observe more of them.
Jeff Mangum

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