APOD: The Great Meteor Procession of 1913 (2013 Feb 09)

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APOD: The Great Meteor Procession of 1913 (2013 Feb 09)

Postby APOD Robot » Sat Feb 09, 2013 5:06 am

Image The Great Meteor Procession of 1913

Explanation: One hundred years ago today the Great Meteor Procession of 1913 occurred, a sky event described by some as "magnificent" and "entrancing" and which left people feeling "spellbound" and "privileged". Because one had to be in a right location, outside, and under clear skies, only about 1,000 people noted seeing the procession. Lucky sky gazers -- particularly those near Toronto, Canada -- had their eyes drawn to an amazing train of bright meteors streaming across the sky, in groups, over the course of a few minutes. A current leading progenitor hypothesis is that a single large meteor once grazed the Earth's atmosphere and broke up. When the resulting pieces next encountered the Earth, they came in over south-central Canada, traveled thousands of kilometers as they crossed over the northeastern USA, and eventually fell into the central Atlantic ocean. Pictured above is a digital scan of a halftone hand-tinted image by the artist Gustav Hahn who was fortunate enough to witness the event first hand. Although nothing quite like the Great Meteor Procession of 1913 has been reported since, numerous bright fireballs -- themselves pretty spectacular -- have since been recorded, some even on video.

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Re: APOD: The Great Meteor Procession of 1913 (2013 Feb 09)

Postby Chris Peterson » Sat Feb 09, 2013 5:57 am

APOD Robot wrote:A current leading progenitor hypothesis is that a single large meteor once grazed the Earth's atmosphere and broke up. When the resulting pieces next encountered the Earth, they came in over south-central Canada, traveled thousands of kilometers as they crossed over the northeastern USA, and eventually fell into the central Atlantic ocean.

That is very unlikely. A meteor progression is produced by a high altitude Earth-grazer, or near Earth-grazer. Such meteors aren't likely to produce any meteorites, and if they do, the mass reaching the ground will probably only be a fraction of a percent of the original mass. It would be more correct to say that this object finally burned up completely over the Atlantic ocean, not that it fell into the sea.
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Re: APOD: The Great Meteor Procession of 1913 (2013 Feb 09)

Postby Beyond » Sat Feb 09, 2013 5:59 am

Art, i think you've been studying firery meteors tooooo long :!:
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Re: APOD: The Great Meteor Procession of 1913 (2013 Feb 09)

Postby BDanielMayfield » Sat Feb 09, 2013 6:00 am

Here’s a link about a similar meteor procession that was witnessed by Walt Whitman from New York City in 1860: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/communit ... 65719.html
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Re: APOD: The Great Meteor Procession of 1913 (2013 Feb 09)

Postby owlice » Sat Feb 09, 2013 9:12 am

BDanielMayfield wrote:Here’s a link about a similar meteor procession that was witnessed by Walt Whitman from New York City in 1860: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/communit ... 65719.html

As discussed in this APOD, which is linked to from today's APOD. :ssmile: And hmmm.... I see that procession doesn't have a Wikipedia page...
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Re: APOD: The Great Meteor Procession of 1913 (2013 Feb 09)

Postby Brad Schaefer » Sat Feb 09, 2013 2:25 pm

One of the people thought that the Procession was caused by a single meteor mass encountering the Earth for the first time. But this is impossible, with the key fact being that the Procession was visible along an arc that was longer than a quarter of the Earth's circumference (from Alberta to the Great Lakes to Toronto to Bermuda on to past the tip of Brazil). No one body could possibly travel such a long path in our atmosphere (any one body will slow and fall within a few hundred miles) and would not be along such a curved path. So we know that the Procession must have been composed of *many* fragments, all entering successively along the path which forms a great circle. This fragmentation must have occurred well before the Procession. As the fragments are all observed along a grazing trajectory on a great circle, they can be backtracked to a single encounter with the Earth's atmosphere within one orbital period (i.e., within 1.5 hours prior to the Procession). So it is easy to see that the original Cyrillid parent body had a skipping encounter with the our atmosphere, fragmented into many pieces, each with a slightly different velocity when it left the upper atmosphere, only to have each fragment follow a ballistic trajectory and come back into the air, for each fragment forming a series of meteors that together make the Procession.

I have already made the physics calculations for the trajectory. I find that there is a set of circumstances that easily makes for a fall-back footprint that is a quarter of the Earth's circumference long and a few kilometers wide. All that is needed is for the fragmented parent body to have a small isotropic velocity dispersion of just a few meters/second and for them to leave the Earth's atmosphere (after the original skipping encounter) with a low angle to the horizon and a low velocity. Within this scenario, there are a wide range of values (for the velocity dispersion, the exit angle, and the exit velocity) that make for very long and very thin fallback patterns. A suitable range of skip parameters will not be common, and that is why Processions happen perhaps once a century, despite the Earth being continually bombarded by meteors. So the physics works. And the basic scenario has well known precedents for skipping original encounter, fragmentation on the first encounter, and fallback along ballistic trajectories. So all is fine.
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Re: APOD: The Great Meteor Procession of 1913 (2013 Feb 09)

Postby Chris Peterson » Sat Feb 09, 2013 3:11 pm

Brad Schaefer wrote:One of the people thought that the Procession was caused by a single meteor mass encountering the Earth for the first time. But this is impossible, with the key fact being that the Procession was visible along an arc that was longer than a quarter of the Earth's circumference (from Alberta to the Great Lakes to Toronto to Bermuda on to past the tip of Brazil). No one body could possibly travel such a long path in our atmosphere (any one body will slow and fall within a few hundred miles) and would not be along such a curved path.

I don't disagree with the conclusion that this (and most) meteor processions are likely caused by tidally disrupted bodies that have created dense debris streams. I've also run physical models for such events, and as you say, they work nicely.

I would not go so far as to say that a very long progression created by a single body is "impossible", however. There are a number of documented fireballs with visible paths over the Earth's surface well over 1000 miles long. There's no reason to believe that a large body can't make a shallow, high altitude pass through the atmosphere resulting in a luminous path at least a few thousand miles long.
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Can anyone get microbarograph charts?

Postby Brad Schaefer » Sat Feb 09, 2013 3:40 pm

I recall that the great Tunguska Meteor (from 1908) was recorded by microbarometers around the world. A microbarometer is an extremely sensitive barometer that measures slight fluctuations in air pressure. The Tunguska event created shock waves that traveled completely around the world, and were recorded (even in the daytime and under clouds) by many stations. Mightn't the Great Meteor Procession have also created atmospheric shock waves that can even now be resurrected from the old microbarograph recordings still existing. The Tunguska recordings show us that a large and sensitive microbarometer network existed in 1908, so presumably still working well in 1913, and that the records were kept at least for decades (when people started looking back to the Tunguska event much later), so the records presumably still exist. The records of the Procession might be able to give us the total energy and size of the meteors. Perhaps they might be able to work out the start point of the path (tracking to before the first observation in Alberta) and the end point of the path (tracking it over the unfrequented parts of the South Atlantic)? These records could be searched in the 1.5 hours prior to the Procession for some record of the original skipping encounter of the parent body. Microbarograph records would be a great way to get the physics and astronomy of the Procession. I have no idea where to go to get these old records. Does anyone out there have access to the old microbarograph charts, or at least know where they are located?
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Re: Can anyone get microbarograph charts?

Postby Chris Peterson » Sat Feb 09, 2013 3:56 pm

Brad Schaefer wrote:I recall that the great Tunguska Meteor (from 1908) was recorded by microbarometers around the world. A microbarometer is an extremely sensitive barometer that measures slight fluctuations in air pressure. The Tunguska event created shock waves that traveled completely around the world, and were recorded (even in the daytime and under clouds) by many stations. Mightn't the Great Meteor Procession have also created atmospheric shock waves that can even now be resurrected from the old microbarograph recordings still existing.

While that is worth examining (perhaps it already has been?), I'm skeptical that the 1913 event would show up in barographic records. The Tunguska event produced a single massive detonation, and only produced a significant barometric signal a few thousand miles away (given the sensitivity of barometers at that time). The meteor procession of 1913 does not appear to be associated with any significant disruption events, and I doubt it would be detectable by anything less than modern infrasound recorders. AFAIK, there were no reports of sonic events associated with the 1913 meteor, which suggests that it never descended below about 50 km, which means any seismic or barometric signal was probably very tiny.
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Re: APOD: The Great Meteor Procession of 1913 (2013 Feb 09)

Postby minkfarms » Sat Feb 09, 2013 4:05 pm

It isn't clear by the Great Meteor Procession of 1913 posting if the halftone hand-tinted image by the artist Gustav Hahn was from photographic film. It seems to indicate that it was. If so, I wonder if the negative survives.
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Re: APOD: The Great Meteor Procession of 1913 (2013 Feb 09)

Postby Chris Peterson » Sat Feb 09, 2013 4:13 pm

minkfarms wrote:It isn't clear by the Great Meteor Procession of 1913 posting if the halftone hand-tinted image by the artist Gustav Hahn was from photographic film. It seems to indicate that it was. If so, I wonder if the negative survives.

I'm somewhat confused by the source material, as well. I associate "halftone" with a printing process, and the scanned image in today's APOD looks pretty awful. But the first link in the caption takes us to a much better image, appearing to be the original, and which looks like a more traditional painting (and is identified as a "painting").
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Re: APOD: The Great Meteor Procession of 1913 (2013 Feb 09)

Postby Boomer12k » Sat Feb 09, 2013 4:34 pm

My father and a fishing buddy once saw a fireball while going on a fishing trip.

Interesting astronomy event from history. Thanks.

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Re: APOD: The Great Meteor Procession of 1913 (2013 Feb 09)

Postby neufer » Sat Feb 09, 2013 4:52 pm

Chris Peterson wrote:
minkfarms wrote:
It isn't clear by the Great Meteor Procession of 1913 posting if the halftone hand-tinted image by the artist Gustav Hahn was from photographic film. It seems to indicate that it was. If so, I wonder if the negative survives.

I'm somewhat confused by the source material, as well. I associate "halftone" with a printing process, and the scanned image in today's APOD looks pretty awful. But the first link in the caption takes us to a much better image, appearing to be the original, and which looks like a more traditional painting (and is identified as a "painting").

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Re: APOD: The Great Meteor Procession of 1913 (2013 Feb 09)

Postby BMAONE23 » Sat Feb 09, 2013 4:55 pm

Chris Peterson wrote:
minkfarms wrote:It isn't clear by the Great Meteor Procession of 1913 posting if the halftone hand-tinted image by the artist Gustav Hahn was from photographic film. It seems to indicate that it was. If so, I wonder if the negative survives.

I'm somewhat confused by the source material, as well. I associate "halftone" with a printing process, and the scanned image in today's APOD looks pretty awful. But the first link in the caption takes us to a much better image, appearing to be the original, and which looks like a more traditional painting (and is identified as a "painting").

As Neufer already pointed out, Where did the stars (Orion Constellation) come from in the APOD if they weren't and apparently aren't in the original painting noted in the first link?
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Re: APOD: The Great Meteor Procession of 1913 (2013 Feb 09)

Postby Chris Peterson » Sat Feb 09, 2013 5:00 pm

BMAONE23 wrote:As Neufer already pointed out, Where did the stars (Orion Constellation) come from in the APOD if they weren't and apparently aren't in the original painting noted in the first link?

No idea. The APOD image looks like it was scanned from a book or some other reproduction of the original painting. Like I said, I'm confused by the source of the image.
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Re: APOD: The Great Meteor Procession of 1913 (2013 Feb 09)

Postby owlice » Sat Feb 09, 2013 5:34 pm

The APOD image was scanned from a publication from 1913 that featured a halftone printed image of the original painting. IOW, the publication reproduced the painting as a halftone image; each copy of the publication was then hand tinted (!!) to add color to the meteors, tails, and a few stars. The print run has been estimated to be 500-550 copies, but the receipt/supporting documentation for that print run are not in evidence.

So... this is a raw scan of one existing copy of the publication (the RASC Journal for May-June, 1913). A processed image of this scan is available on the RASC website (which this APOD links to).
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Re: APOD: The Great Meteor Procession of 1913 (2013 Feb 09)

Postby owlice » Sat Feb 09, 2013 5:42 pm

So.... original painting can be seen here and a processed image of the scanned image used for this APOD can be seen here. The image at this second link was processed by Randall Rosenfeld, who is the Archivist of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and very kindly allowed APOD to present today's image.
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Re: APOD: The Great Meteor Procession of 1913 (2013 Feb 09)

Postby rstevenson » Sat Feb 09, 2013 5:45 pm

Following links found by a Google search...

On this page www.rasc.ca/meteor-procession-1913, down at the bottom of the article, there is this link... Gustav Hahn's Graphic Record of the Great Meteor Procession of 1913 February 9 from where one can download a PDF of a 2011 paper about the paintings and the phenomenom that prompted them. In that PDF you'll see two images, the first of which is a "Watercolour and gouache on paper" and the second of which is a "Relief half-tone print with hand-painted details on tinted paper". Both are by Gustav Hahn. Both include the stars on the left, but they are inexplicably cut off in the image found through the first link in the APOD description.

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Are there any photographs of the Procesion out there?

Postby Brad Schaefer » Sat Feb 09, 2013 6:11 pm

Photography and astrophotography were active worldwide back in 1913, so maybe there are some pictures of the Great Meteor Procession hiding away somewhere? Recall the myriad of modern photos and videos of fireballs taken by random people (see links in the APOD caption) and the Harvard plates have much fainter meteor pictures going back to before 1900. So if we are lucky, maybe some photo of the Procession can be found by modern-day diligent searchers?

I have just returned from a month-long trip to Harvard College Observatory, where I was examining archival astronomical photographs (called plates) for novae and cataclysmic variable stars, getting light curves from 1889 onwards. They have ~500,000 plates, covering the whole sky, as recorded from stations in Massachusetts, Peru, South Africa and more, finely covering the sky to typically 14th mag from 1889-1954 plus a number of plates in the ~1968 to 1985 range. I examined *all* 69 plates exposed from -48 hours to +2 hours from the time of the Procession (starting at 9:05 EST 9 February 1913, which is 02:05 UT 10 February 1913, which is JD 2419808.586) by raster scanning with a loupe (with a factor of two overlap) looking for any object that was trailed (likely with a very long trail). The idea is to find either photos of the meteors themselves or of the parent body (or fragments) while still outside the atmosphere. I have also made a full raster scan of all 48 plates taken from 30 October 1912 to 8 February 1913 that shows the region of the sky with 10h<RA<19h and -55°<DEC<+40°, all in an attempt to spot the incoming body (whether asteroid or comet) as a moderately trailed source perhaps with a coma. The human eye is very good at this sort of pattern recognition, I have an extreme familiarity with the Harvard plates, and I have much experience at similar scans of plates (for other questions). I have found nothing of any note or interest on these plates. This negative result is a shame, and it is also largely useless for any of the questions at hand. Nevertheless, it does show that there are untapped archives out there that are just waiting to be checked.

I am thinking that people can come up with other archives or repositories to check. For example, the Yerkes Observatory has a large archive of astronomical photos from the time, and they are not too far from the Procession path. So this is a challenge for people to go out and find photos of the Procession.
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Re: APOD: The Great Meteor Procession of 1913 (2013 Feb 09)

Postby Ron-Astro Pharmacist » Sat Feb 09, 2013 10:17 pm

What would a collision like which occurred on Jupiter with Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 look like here on Earth if something similar happened? Am I way off base or is that what we are discussing here today? I mean a small object that broke apart and intersected the Earth's atmosphere in different locations at similar but different times. :?:
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Re: APOD: The Great Meteor Procession of 1913 (2013 Feb 09)

Postby Chris Peterson » Sat Feb 09, 2013 11:22 pm

Ron-Astro Pharmacist wrote:What would a collision like which occurred on Jupiter with Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 look like here on Earth if something similar happened? Am I way off base or is that what we are discussing here today? I mean a small object that broke apart and intersected the Earth's atmosphere in different locations at similar but different times. :?:

Correct, that is the sort of thing we're discussing here. However, the fragments of SL9 were up to a couple of kilometers across. A collision with an object like that would be a global catastrophe. The parent body of the 1913 event was probably typical of many bright fireballs, with a total size ranging from a few meters to a few tens of meters. A body like that normally can't reach the ground carrying any of its original speed, and therefore results in no significant damage. I doubt this meteor dropped meteorites, but if it did, they could have been produced anywhere along the path where fragmentation was observed, and would likely have been nothing more than small rocks, easily overlooked. There are examples of long, slow fireballs (hundreds of miles) where we consider meteorites likely under much of the path.
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Re: APOD: The Great Meteor Procession of 1913 (2013 Feb 09)

Postby alter-ego » Sun Feb 10, 2013 12:07 am

owlice wrote:The APOD image was scanned from a publication from 1913 that featured a halftone printed image of the original painting. IOW, the publication reproduced the painting as a halftone image; each copy of the publication was then hand tinted (!!) to add color to the meteors, tails, and a few stars. The print run has been estimated to be 500-550 copies, but the receipt/supporting documentation for that print run are not in evidence.

So... this is a raw scan of one existing copy of the publication (the RASC Journal for May-June, 1913). A processed image of this scan is available on the RASC website (which this APOD links to).

and to add to owl's comments is the below exerpt:
"event" link wrote:Chant clearly went to considerable effort to see that his publication of the GMP was distniguished by a memorable image. Indirect evidence suggests that he was the effective patron of Hahn's original painting, which for decades hung in the administration building of the David Dunlap Observatory (the painting is now in the collections of the University of Toronto Archives and Record Management Services [UTARMS], accession # A2008-0023). As editor of the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Chant had Hahn's watercolour reproduced as a relief half-tone print on tinted paper. One aspect of the technical process may strike 21st-century consumers of astronomical images as remarkable - to quote Rosenfeld & Muir:

Several of the colours Chant and his colleagues desired in the reproduction were not best reproduced mechanically through the photo-chemical half-tone process. It was decided to execute the stars in white, white and gold, and the meteors in gold individually by hand for every single copy of the Journal as the penultimate stage in production prior to tipping-in to the binding. A careful examination of different copies of the print shows that while the general placement of the meteors and stars is quite close, as are their shapes, they are far from identical from print to print. This seems an extravagant way to mass-produce an image now, but it must be remembered that features added by hand were part of the printing industry from the 15th to the early 20th century, chiefly in the matter of colour . The use of the technique for reproducing Hahn’s GMP image occurred within the context of a venerable industrial practice - JRASC 105, 4: 173.

The image is as evocatively memorable now as when it was first published. Nearly a century ago, the Great Meteor Procession (GMP) was spectacular enough to surprise, delight, and awe the most experienced of meteoriticists, not to mention the casual observer. The same event would doubtless have a comparable impact today.

Astronomical Art & Artifact: Gustav Hahn's Graphic Record of the Great Meteor Procession of 1913 February 9, Rosenfeld, R. A., & Muir, Clark JRASC 105, 4: 167-175
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Re: APOD: The Great Meteor Procession of 1913 (2013 Feb 09)

Postby owlice » Sun Feb 10, 2013 12:41 am

alter-ego, thanks for posting that!
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Re: APOD: The Great Meteor Procession of 1913 (2013 Feb 09)

Postby Sinan İpek » Sun Feb 10, 2013 2:57 am

I saw something like this in 2001. It was nighttime around 11pm. Suddeny, it was like a day, there was a soundless flash! We looked at the sky and saw that some big bright spot was moving. It had a long trace which was brightly colored, red, green and blue. 7 or 8 seconds after, the bright spot fructured and disappeared. The trace stayed much more longer. I don't know what it was, a meteor or just a satellite entering the atmosphere.

I saw two other fireballs afterwards, in 2002 and in 2008. The 2002 meteor wasn't as bright as to turn the night into day, otherwise it was just like the 2001 event. The 2008 event was like a miracle, the meteor (?) turned half of the night sky turn into day. Am I a little lucky :?:
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What are the two stars to the right of Orion?

Postby Brad Schaefer » Sun Feb 10, 2013 5:09 pm

The APOD shows two bright stars to the right of Orion and above the Procession. What are those two stars? They don't appear in any of the other versions of the the Hahn painting. Judging from their relative positions to Orion, they are roughly at declination of 3° to 6°. (Note also that the reddish colored Betelgeuse is substantially set lower in declination, by perhaps 3°, than it really appears.) The stars (other than Betelgeuse) are depicted with comparable white size dots, with the Orion stars being from magnitude 0.3 to 2.2; so presumably the two stars on the right are somewhere in that range. I have checked Voyager (a good planetarium program) for that date and time and location, and there are no bright stars or planets in that region to the right of Orion. So what are those stars? One possibility is that they represent Aldebaran (magnitude 1.0, declination 16°) and Saturn (magnitude 0.1, declination 17°). But this possibility is poor because those candidates are far to the north of the represented position and the Aldebaran-candidate is not painted reddish (like Betelgeuse). Another possibility is that the two stars were added for some artistic reason. And why only in this version of the painting?
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