November 12, 2009

The Leonid Exoplanets

In November 1833, Astronomers noticed an unusual number of meteors that seemed to emanate from the Leo constellation. It has come to be called The Leonids, a meteor shower with an amazing display of light caused by dust and debris from a comet. This comet, named "Tempel-Tuttle" visits the inner solar system every 33 years and leaves a stream of dusty debris in its wake. When the Earth crosses that stream of dust, the particles gets swept in the upper atmosphere and burn up as dazzling streaks of light.

Come November 17, 2009--we will be given a treat to see this grand display under the predawn sky. The Leonids will be a major show this year, specially that the Earth will pass through a pair of streams laid down by Comet Tempel-Tuttle in 1466 and 1533 AD. The double crossing could yield as many as 300 Leonids per hour. Another great thing is that Mars happens to be along the radiant of the the Leonids, so it would appear that meteors are emanating from Mars!

Because I often think of exoplanets when gazing at the starry night sky, exogazing has been part of my activity. Thus it has become customary for me to chart known exoplanets within the field of view of meteor showers.

Below is a compilation of The Leonid Exoplanets that will keep me busy while waiting for the meteorite streaks to pour--which would be around 30 per hour in my area in Northern America and 300 streaks per hour in Asia.

To date, there are 9 stars that host a total of 10 exoplanets within the Leo constellation (but they will grow in large numbers soon). One of them hosts 2 of the planets listed below. Unfortunately, most of these stars can not be seen with the naked eye, especially in light-polluted areas--as they are fainter than magnitude 7 (visual magnitude listed below). You can use binoculars but of course, you better put it down when the Leonid streaks come pouring in. Meteor showers are best viewed with the naked eyes.

UPDATE! The only Leonid Exoplanet in my list that can be seen with the naked eye is Gamma Leonis 1 b, which orbits one of the brightest stars in the Leo Constellation! Gamma Leonis 1 b, orbiting around Algeiba--was confirmed just a few days ago! Yes! This exoplanet wanted to join the Leonid Exogazing event this year! This exoplanet actually pushed the total number of known exoplanets to 404!

The star chart I generated from Google Sky would give you an idea where they are so you can approximately point at them in the sky while telling your friends and family about these other Worlds.

Here's the KMZ file and the Leonid Exoplanets listed at Freebase if you want more details on the exoplanets themselves.
Don't forget to set the alarm to wake up very early and enjoy the Leonid show with your friends and family. It will be a memorable event I am pretty sure!

*HD 89484 b (Gamma 1 Leonis b) 2.1
HD 99492 b 7.57
HD 81040 b 7.72
Gliese 436 b 10.68
BD-20 2457 b 9.75
BD-20 2457 c 9.75
HD 100777 b 8.42
HD 88133 b 8.01
HD 89307 b 7.06
HD 99109 b 9.1

More Links:

About Leonids
From Physorg
Viewing Tips