Perseids!

Over the next few nights, you should have a good chance of seeing some of the Perseid meteor shower. They’re going to put on a rather splendid show this year, I hear. From the NASA news site, I’ve grabbed a a diagram of the region of the sky (containing the constellation Perseus, of course – that’s where they’ll seem to be coming from, and so that’s what gives them their name) that you ought to be looking toward. (The red dot is not a star, but the central point of (apparent) origin, and the red lines are some example paths of the streakers that you’ll see):

perseids where to look

Concerned that you don’t know enough astronomy? No idea in any amount of detail where these constellations are? Don’t worry! Basically, all you really have to do is find a place where the sky is reasonably dark, look East, and wait. As your eyes acclimatise to the dark, and with a bit of luck, you’ll see some, and zero in on where to look. The peak time to do this is very early Monday morning (a good wait well after midnight on Sunday, in other words), but you don’t have to stay up that super late to see something. Late Sunday night will probably do. Also, don’t wait until Sunday/Monday – there will be good chances to see them from as early as late tonight (Friday) through every night through Monday or Tuesday night. (The comet whose tail we’re passing through (although the comet’s long gone) is that of Swift-Tuttle, by the way. That’s the debris of the tail interacting with our atmosphere that gives the show.)

You should be able to see them even from cities (where the sky is not so dark), if you’re patient and give your eyes time to adjust, but of course if you can get away from the city to some really dark sky (go East, so that the city is behind you for best viewing), you’ll be in for a treat! Come back and tell us if you see any!

Read much more on the NASA site. The Stardate site, and also Phil over at Bad Astronomy give some useful tips.

-cvj

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7 Responses to Perseids!

  1. astromcnaught says:

    We watched for an hour or so last night and saw quite a few.
    The best one was brighter than any star and left a glowing corrugated trail behind it, sparkling briefly.
    Maximum is about 12 hours from now so we’ve got our fingers crossed for clear skies!

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  4. Clifford says:

    I hope you had some clear skies….. I saw some last night/this morning too. See here:

    http://asymptotia.com/2007/08/13/stargazing/

    -cvj

  5. Lab Lemming says:

    Why are all the famous meteor showers associated with northern hemisphere constellations? Shouldn’t both halves of the planet get hit equally?

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