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Strong Meteor Shower Expected Tonight

 
 
djjd62
 
Reply Tue 11 Aug, 2009 05:00 pm
Strong Meteor Shower Expected Tonight

Robert Roy Britt
Editorial Director
SPACE.com
Tue Aug 11, 9:19 am ET

http://d.yimg.com/a/p/afp/20090811/capt.photo_1250015680282-1-0.jpg?x=363&y=345&q=85&sig=ELh3R9QfL5beQwMMfV_9og--
Map illustrating the annual Perseid meteor shower. The night sky will sparkle with "falling stars" on Tuesday and Wednesday as Earth passes through a trail of dusty debris from the Swift-Tuttle Comet, say scientists.


The annual Perseid meteor shower is expected to put on a good show this week for those willing to get up in the wee hours of the morning and wait patiently for the shooting stars.

In North America, the best time to watch will be between midnight to 5 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 12, but late Tuesday night and also Wednesday night could prove fruitful, weather permitting.

The Perseids are always reliable, and sometimes rather spectacular. The only things that puts a damper on the August show are bad weather or bright moonlight. Unfortunately this week, as the Perseids reach their peak Tuesday and Wednesday nights, the moon will be high in the sky, outshining the fainter meteors.

Still, skywatchers around the globe will have a good chance of spotting the brighter meteors. Some already are enjoying the show.

Already underway

The Perseids are bits of debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle, which has laid down several streams of debris, each in a slightly different location, over the centuries as it orbits the sun. Every August, Earth passes through these debris streams, which spread out over time.

"They are typically fast, bright and occasionally leave persistent trains," says Joe Rao, SPACE.com's Skywatching Columnist. "And every once in a while, a Perseid fireball will blaze forth, bright enough to be quite spectacular and more than capable to attract attention even in bright moonlight."

Low numbers of Perseids, including some bright fireballs, have already been reported as Earth began entering the stream in late July. Seasoned observers have counted up to 25 per hour already, or nearly one every two minutes.

Most meteors are no bigger than a pea. They vaporize as they enter Earth's atmosphere, creating bright streaks across the sky.

The Perseids appear to emanate from the constellation Perseus, which rises high in the sky around midnight and is nearly overhead by dawn. Like most meteor showers, the hours between midnight and daybreak are typically the best time to watch, because that's when the side of Earth you are on is rotating into the direction of Earth's travels through space, so meteors are "scooped up" by the atmosphere at higher rates, much like a car's windshield ends the lives of more bugs than does the rear bumper.

Astronomers expect up to 200 meteors per hour in short bursts of up to 15 minutes or so. But many of the fainter meteors will simply not be visible due to moonlight, and rates will go down even more for those in urban areas. More likely a typical observer under reasonably dark skies might hope to see a meteor every couple minutes when the bursts come, and fewer during lulls.

When to watch

The best time to watch is between midnight and dawn Wednesday. Forecasters say the best stretch could come between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. ET (1-2 a.m. PT), which would be after daybreak in Europe. Some Perseids might be visible late Tuesday night, and Wednesday night into Thursday morning could prove worthwhile, too.

Meteor forecasting is still in its infancy, however, so the best bet for anyone truly hungry to spot shooting stars is to get in as much observing time as possible from around 11 p.m. Tuesday night until dawn Wednesday, and if you miss that show, try the same time frame Wednesday evening into Thursday morning.

Meteors should be visible in the pre-dawn hours, weather permitting, all around the Northern Hemisphere.

"Earth passes through the densest part of the debris stream sometime on Aug. 12," said Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office. "Then, you could see dozens of meteors per hour."

Viewing tips

The best location is far from city and suburban lights. Ideally, find a structure, mountain or tree to block the moon. Then scan as much of the sky as possible. The meteors can appear anywhere, heading in any direction. If you trace their paths backward, they'll all point to the constellation Perseus.

People in locations where any chill might occur should dress warmer than they think necessary to allow for prolonged viewing.

Seasoned skywatchers advise using a blanket or lounge chair for comfort, so you can lie back and look up for long periods. Allow at least 15 minutes for your eyes to fully adjust to the darkness. Then expect meteors to be sporadic: You might see two in a row, or several minutes could go by between shooting stars.

Avid meteor watchers might want to try scanning the northeastern horizon from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. local time (your local time, wherever you are) for Perseids that graze the horizon.

"Earthgrazers are meteors that approach from the horizon and skim the atmosphere overhead like a stone skipping across the surface of a pond," Cooke explained. "They are long, slow and colorful " among the most beautiful of meteors." He notes that an hour of watching may net only a few of these at most, but seeing even one can make the whole night worthwhile.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 9 • Views: 3,136 • Replies: 21
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ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Aug, 2009 05:14 pm
@djjd62,
I haven't stayed up to watch the Perseids for a couple of years. If the clouds go away, I may give it a crack tonight. Maybe.
0 Replies
 
Sglass
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Aug, 2009 07:21 pm
Do we get this show on the Big Island. I was sitting out last night and could not believe how beautiful the sky was and how many stars. I find it hard to believe that earth is part of the Milky Way.
djjd62
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Aug, 2009 07:25 pm
@Sglass,
yup

http://hawaiihealthguide.com/images/health/article_777.gif

What's the best thing to do this week at night in Hawaii? Leave your worries and cares behind, pack a snack and find a nice dark spot to kick back on the beach or backyard. Just look up and slightly Northeast and count the falling stars. You can even make a wish!

The annual Perseids Meteor shower rewards viewers with over 60 meteors an hour at peak moments. The Perseids peak Aug 12, but related meteor streaks can be seen July we- Aug 22.

The streaks will be seen radiating from the constellation Perseus.

Oh yeah, as usual, this celestial show is free.

The waning gibbous moon will provide some interference in the early morning, so the best viewing will be in the evening before it rises. The radiant point for this shower will be in the constellation Perseus. Look to the northeast after midnight.
0 Replies
 
littlek
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Aug, 2009 09:17 pm
been rainy with a dense cloud cover all night <pout>
0 Replies
 
Rockhead
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Aug, 2009 09:45 pm
@djjd62,
bright clear skies over the prairie, and night owl in temporary residence...

we will report back later, 2 am is still way off.
0 Replies
 
Sglass
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Aug, 2009 12:02 am
Damn fallout from our aborted hurricane Felecia has left us with a misty, starless night here on the slopes of Mauna Loa. I doubt if we will see the shooting stars.
0 Replies
 
Francis
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Aug, 2009 12:36 am
I was out last night, the sky was magnificent.

In a space of few minutes I've seen three falling stars, in the Perseids region..

0 Replies
 
Rockhead
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Aug, 2009 01:31 am
very cool here. not clusters, but bright singles and very able to be seen.
jespah
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Aug, 2009 03:51 am
@Rockhead,
Too cloudy here, dang.
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Aug, 2009 04:52 am
@jespah,
I got up real early for what? Its all fog and dreck. Cant see but a few feet.
Can you hear em?
0 Replies
 
djjd62
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Aug, 2009 05:00 am
it was clearing here yesterday evening, but by midnight it had clouded over again, hopefully it's clear tonight, give it one more shot
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Aug, 2009 05:19 am
@djjd62,
online meteor watch @ twitter


Observers statistics @ International Meteor Organization (IMO)
0 Replies
 
Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Aug, 2009 02:07 pm
I think we're supposed to get clearer skies tonight. In that case I think Sglass and I will go to the rim of the Kilauea caldera and watch stars falling into the crater!
0 Replies
 
djjd62
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Aug, 2009 07:42 pm
skies clearer tonight hope to see a few

i can remember watching a display in the late 70's that was spectacular, i was probably about 17, went to friends house that was even more in the country than mine, grabbed sleeping bags and set up an area in meadow near by, there were times we were seeing 2 or 3 a minute

funny, drove by the friends old house tonight, there's about 200 hundred homes where the meadows used to be

you can't, as they say, go home again
0 Replies
 
djjd62
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Aug, 2009 09:00 pm
nice, just saw the first couple, one really big one
0 Replies
 
djjd62
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Aug, 2009 09:13 pm
meteors and bats, good night time watching
Francis
 
  1  
Reply Thu 13 Aug, 2009 12:38 am
@djjd62,
I've seen a lot of meteors, two of them were really bright..

Lots of satellites passing by, too.
0 Replies
 
Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Thu 13 Aug, 2009 12:47 am
Unfortunately, it's raining cats and dogs on the Big Island of Hawaii right now and here at the summit of Mount Kilauea the vog is thick as the proverbial pea soup. I doubt that anyone herebouts will see any heavenly bodies come crashing down tonight.
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Thu 13 Aug, 2009 01:52 am
@Merry Andrew,
I have SO had it with these goddamn meteor showers!


I don't know how many times I have stayed up for one of them, with clear skies, and seen NOTHING!!!!



 

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