Archive for the ‘Perseids’ Category
Where and When do I look to see a Meteor Shower?
I am asked all the time when there is a meteor shower: “What direction do I need to look to see the meteors” and “what time”?
Scroll down to the end of this post if you only want the answer and not learn why…
These questions as well as many others seem to have had laboured answers in the past, but the reality is, astronomy is dead easy and you don’t need to be exact unless you are taking images or doing proper research or science. The average person with an interest in the night sky doesn’t need to know all the technical ins and outs, especially if they are doing naked eye observing without equipment like a telescope. Read the rest of this entry »
This will probably be the most simple and easiest guide to viewing the Perseids and other meteor showers you may possibly ever read. The reason why it is so simple is when you are outside you want to concentrate on looking for meteors and not worrying about technical details, which are unnecessary for the casual observer.
First, a LITTLE about the Perseids: Read the rest of this entry »
It’s meteorwatch and as well as shooting stars from the Perseid meteor shower, we can see some excellent International Space Station (ISS) passes alongside the celestial fireworks. Read the rest of this entry »
Doubtless you’ve heard astronomers and meteor shower observers kick around terms such as “bolide,” “sporadic” and “Zenithal Hourly Rate” when it comes to showers like this weekend’s Perseids. Like any field of endeavor, these terms and phrases and help to describe what we see (or expect to see) and aren’t just designed to make us unpopular at cocktail parties. Here’s a quick rundown on terms that should be in your meteor watcher’s lexicon; use em’ to impress (or annoy) your friends while you watch for this weekend’s Perseids; Read the rest of this entry »
The Perseids are one of the most prolific and best-known of the meteor showers and can be seen in late July and through August each year, with the maximum activity on or around 12/13 August. One advantage of the Perseids shower is that it happens in the warmer weather of Summer, which makes it ideal for anyone interested in seeing their first meteor. You can see a meteor at any time of year but, for a day or so around the date of maximum, there may be a ten times better chance of seeing one. Read the rest of this entry »
Win a chance to have Nick Howes (@NickAstronomer on twitter) equipment consultant for Astronomy now image your favorite object using the almost Hubble sized mirror of the amazing Faulkes Telescopes. One in Hawaii one in Asutralia…the choice is yours?
So don’t forget to tweet #meteorwatch, 1st part of your postcode, Country code and how many meteors you just saw.
Share your #meteorwatch experience and have fun
Faulkes Telescope operates a network of research class robotic telescopes. Currently there are two telescopes, one in Hawaii and the other in Australia each with mirrors nearly the same size as Hubble costing £5,000,0002011 © Copyright Faulkes Telescope Project, official partner of Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network
Meteors streaking across the sky are an amazing sight. Every time I see a meteor is a thrilling moment.
I’m not a professional astronomer or even a specialized expert. I’ve just been watching the skies for meteors and showing others how to spot them for a long time. I particularly enjoy helping people who have never seen a meteor before experience their first sighting. My greatest success is watching the Perseid Meteor shower together with my kids while we were camping in the mountains together. It is an emotional memory that we’ll share all our lives.
Watching meteors is special because it truly takes no special equipment whatsoever. Telescopes or cameras just restrict your field of view – for best viewing simply lie back and enjoy the sky in front of your own eyes.
Meteorwatch itself is special for a lot of reasons. It is a world-wide event of professional and amateur astronomers getting together to share the heaven’s most showy display of the year. It’s an opportunity to collect real data that may be useful for astronomers to work with to increase our understanding of space. For me, meteorwatch is a chance to share my excitement with others who have never seen the beauty of a meteor flashing overhead.
Our goal for meteorwatch is to increase the odds for everyone to find meteors. Meteorwatch occurs August 12 through August 14 to correspond with the Perseid Meteor shower. The Perseids are a predictable shower that comes every year. In fact, meteors from the Perseids have been observed for about 2000 years already! The meteors are frequent and fairly bright, so it’s likely that you’ll be able to spot one if you go out prepared.
The first step of being prepared is that you need to find the darkest place you can find, as far away as possible from lights that will disrupt your night vision. If the moon is out while you’re observing, try to block it as best as you can with trees or a hill so you don’t look at it and ruin your night vision. If your night vision does get disrupted, you will not be able to see the dimmer meteors at all, so keep your eyes up and don’t pull out your phone to tweet every few minutes.
It’s true that Perseid meteors will likely come at between one and two meteors every minute, but you won’t be able to see that many because most of them are dim and washed out by city lights. The darker it is, the more meteors you will see! When I’m in a reasonably dark area near the outskirts of my city I’m happy to see one meteor every five minutes or so. If you can’t get out of the city, you may have to wait longer because you will only see the brightest meteors. There are plenty of sightings from the heart of cities, so it’s not impossible, just more difficult. It’s certainly worth an attempt if you can find a park without lights or some other dark area near you.
The second step is to make sure that you’re comfortable while waiting. A good chair that supports your neck while you look up is helpful. Even though the Perseids occur during summer, the nights can get quite chilly so dress warmly and bring something warm to drink.
The third step is to keep it an enjoyable outing. Some people like to go out alone and listen to music while waiting. That’s great too, but I usually tell first-timers to go out in groups. I especially encourage people to take their kids out. Young eyes may see phantom meteors at first, but once they get the hang of it they’ll spot meteors too dim for you or I to spot any more. Kids are fantastic at spotting meteors and it encourages them to be interested in the world around them. Besides, who wouldn’t appreciate a late night out once in a while?
The most frequent question I get asked year after year has been, “Where should I look in the sky to see the meteors?” In the past I’ve tried to describe how to find the constellation Perseus, but it’s rather unnecessary. Accustom your eyes to the dark, and after you’ve seen three or four meteors you should be able to figure out where Perseus is in the sky all on your own! It’s most important to look up, be relaxed and patient, and the meteors will dazzle in front of you as long as you are willing to watch.
Unfortunately, we don’t all get clear skies. Some of us are clouded out and have no chance at spotting meteors above us, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. Follow the #meteorwatch hashtag on twitter for tips, pictures, radio observing and to share your experiences with other enthusiasts around the world. Go to www.meteorwatch.org for news and information and be sure to follow twitter.com/VirtualAstro for fantastic coverage of the Perseid Meteor shower direct from his Astrobunker.
Mark Zaugg is an amateur astronomer and enthusiast who particularly enjoys introducing people to the excitement of seeing a meteor in person. You can find him at twitter.com/Zarquil
A classic summer astronomical standby may be in trouble this year, but that shouldn’t stop you from looking. That’s right, we’re talking about the Perseids, that “old faithful” of meteor showers which sees northern hemisphere residents getting bundled up to camp out under the summer stars every mid-August.
Some of our earliest astronomical memories come from watching this very shower under the dark northern Maine skies of our 1970’s childhood… yes, the Perseids are public crowd-pleaser and even an occasional Yahoo-trending fave that can even knock the likes of Brittany & friends down to the number 2 slot for a 12 hour period… so, what’s this news of the Perseids being “troubled?” They haven’t been threatened by irate pop stars, have they?
Unfortunately, this year’s menace is a more inviolate force; the Full Moon. Yes, this year’s Perseid meteor shower peaks the morning of August 13th, mere hours before the Moon reaches Full status on the same day at 14:57EDT/18:57UTC. Instead of the usual respectable zenithal hourly rate (ZHR) of around 100 meteors per hour, observers can only expect to see a paltry few of the very brightest fireballs…
But all is not lost. With a little planning, a few factors can work in YOUR favor this year. Keep in mind that the Perseids have a very broad peak, and the radiant near the head of the constellation Perseus lies above the horizon all night for observers north of 32° latitude. Plus, this month’s Full Moon (known as a Sturgeon Moon) has a southerly declination of about -11° degrees; your best bet for catching Perseids this year may lie with watching several mornings prior, in the window of time between the setting of the waxing gibbous Moon and the beginning of local twilight… and yes, you CAN still watch a meteor shower during a Full Moon and see an occasional Perseid.
Generally speaking, the farther north in latitude you are located, the more likely you’ll be able to take advantage of these twin factors. Finding as dark a site as possible and putting something physically between yourself and the bright Moon is the key. A building or a hill makes an excellent “Moon-block.” Perseids are swift movers with an atmospheric entry velocity of about 61 km/sec.
The meteors are tiny grain-like debris shed by the comet Swift-Tuttle, and the shower occurs as the Earth intersects the path of the comet every mid-August. The Perseids are also famously known as the “Tears of Saint Lawrence” who was martyred on August 10th, and are probably the most well known of all meteor showers because of their annual dependability and their timely occurrence with the northern hemisphere summer vacation and holiday season.
Historic ZHR rates have always hovered around 60, but the past several years have seen an enhanced ZHR of +100. This shower is also infamous for sparking “Meteor Shower of the Millennium!” headlines annually, Although I have yet to see the same occur this year… a shower that MAY be a contender for said headline is the Giacobinids (or do you say Draconid?) meteors in early October 2011, an obscure shower that may dazzle this year… more on this to come in October.
Wonder what that the above graphic has to do with anything astronomical? You are looking at what is known as a nomogram, a graphical device that is a neat way to show interrelationships between factors. (Hey, how do you spend your weekend?) The graphic above was adapted from a nomogram featured in the November 2002 issue of Sky & Telescope; it shows the interrelationship between the two biggest factors that affect the zenithal hourly rate; namely, the radiant’s elevation above the horizon, and the limiting magnitude of your sky. (For a way “math-y-ier” dissertation on nomograms and the ZHR, click here).
This device will be your indispensible friend and secret weapon as you plot your meteor observing adventures for this or any shower. The ZHR is a theoretical limit; it assumes that you have absolutely perfect skies with a radiant directly overhead and an unwavering 360°degree view. Unrealistic, right? Well, it’s something to strive for. As you can see after playing around with the graphic a bit, the biggest killer of how many meteors you’ll see is how dark a sky you are under.
Even when the Perseid radiant is half way (45° degrees) in altitude towards the zenith, a limiting magnitude of +4 (as is typical around a Full Moon) means you’ll see roughly 10% of the zenithal hourly rate, i.e. 6-10 meteors per hour instead of 60-100. Yes, light pollution, both natural and manmade, is a real meteor shower buzz-kill. And keep in mind, other factors can conspire to lower that rate even further, such as obstructions on the horizon and the fact that a sole observer can only cover a limited swath of the sky visually. Still, the sight of a well placed fireball can be unforgettable and just plain pure magic to witness.