09 August, 2013

Dial M For Meteor

Well, we are into Leo, August is upon us, and the excitement is building. That can mean only one thing: we’re getting close to the Perseid meteor showers, a celestial light show of what many call falling or shooting stars. I like to think of it as The Universe's birthday present to me, but I'm happy to share it with all the other Leos.

What follows is mostly gleaned from the web.

The Perseid meteor shower is annual, extremely regular in its timing, and often visible for weeks in the late summer sky. It's named after the constellation Perseus, located in roughly the same point of the night sky from which it seems to originate. That's a useful naming convention, but not very accurate!.

The source of the Perseid meteor shower is actually debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle. Every year, the earth passes through the debris cloud left by the comet, and the earth's atmosphere is bombarded by what are popularly known as falling stars.

Perhaps a few meteors are visible now, but not many. The lucky viewer might catch one. If you do, put it in your pocket and never let it fade away. This year peak viewing will occur on August 11th and 12th beginning around 11:30 pm EDT and growing more spectacular in the early morning hours (until dawn). You'll see the most meteors in the wee hours before dawn. The moon is in its waxing crescent but will have set before dark at the shower's peak, so there will be minimal moonlight to interfere with the faint meteors. The shower should reach its peak in the hours after midnight with a maximum of a 80-100 meteors visible per hour.

Look toward the horizon at the constellation Perseus rising in the northeast sky, but they come from all directions. All you need is darkness, and if you can see all seven stars of the Big Dipper, it's dark enough.

Bring a lawn chair and bottled water. Maybe something stronger. If you wish, add a camera and tripod. I suppose you could just bring a blanket and someone you love. Or ... if you’re not with the one you love, you might try loving the one you're with. If you do either, however, you run the risk of missing the whole thing.