UPDATE: The on-line simulation seems to be working beautifully now! I'd recommend anyone to go back and take another look to enjoy both the mathematical beauty of orbital mechanics, and the aesthetics of the solar system visualization!
New York Times article Visualizing the Cosmic Streams That Spew Meteor Showers links to a solar system viewer that allows one to visualize aspects of meteor-shower-inducing comet orbits by Ian Webb.
Now, astronomers and engineers have created an animation that lets you witness the entire journey. Using data from the Cameras for Allsky Meteor Surveillance, a network of about 60 cameras pointed at the sky above San Francisco Bay, researchers have recorded more than 300,000 meteoroid trajectories since 2010. They plan to use the data to confirm more than 300 potential meteor showers that scientists have observed, but not verified.
“Each dot that you see is a shooting star that was captured by one of our cameras,” said Peter Jenniskens, an astronomer at the SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, Calif., who runs CAMS. His interactive transforms meteor showers like the Geminids and the Orionids into shimmering rivers of space rocks. Viewers can pinpoint the moment the Lyrids or Eta Aquarids light up the night by watching when their streams intersect with the Earth’s orbit, shown in blue. There is even an option to see all the meteor showers at once, making it look like a meteor hurricane.
I need some help understanding what I'm looking at. When I first open it up I believe I see a number of objects following the same general hyperbolic (or very elliptical) orbit. What bothers me is that some seem to zip past very fast, some seem to crawl slowly, and some are moving at intermediate speed. If they are all associated with one primary comet, and follow similar paths in this large (roughly 10 AU) view, shouldn't they have at least roughly similar velocities?
Edit: I've snapped screenshots from
04-11-2017 at a speed setting of
0.005 and made two GIFs below The second one is annotated with a red, green, and blue arrow indicating three objects (slow, medium, and fast) following nearly the same orbit with at least a factor of 10 different speeds between them.
I have replayed viewing from different angles, they follow nearly the same orbit in 3D, all the way around the sun and back into space - it is not related to a particular view.
I believe this to be completely unphysical!