Heads Up, Skywatchers! Perseid Meteor Shower

Science Tech



Another Astro-event that is a do-not-miss! This is not quite the largest meteor shower, but it certainly is the most popular. It lasts several days, and peaks in the very fist hours of the 12th. Here are a few tips:

Stay Late: The later, the better. The absolute best time is after midnight, when we are turned farthest from the sun (although I have seen some good ones in the evening). Coincidentally, the shower also peaks just after midnight. Don’t plan to come out after 2 a.m., though, as the moon will have risen; although it’s not full it will drown out fainter meteors. Bottom line, Midnight-2 a.m. is the best time.

Go Dark: Go someplace where an astro-guy’s old enemy isn’t. Light pollution is pretty much everywhere these days, and it will drown out the fainter meteors. If you can’t, it’s o.k. Lots of meteors are visible in modest amounts of l.p., and bright ones will shine through even some of the hopeless places.

Dark Adapt Your Vision: If you stay out for about an hour, your eyes will convert to the awesomeness that is dark adapted vision. You may have noticed that when you go out at night and look at the stars, the stars will appear brighter when you don’t look directly at it (using peripheral vision, also called averted vision). If you stay out about an hour (even half an hour noticeably helps), your eyes will change so that direct vision will be brighter. But this means you can’t bring any light source. No cell phones, no flashlights, nothing. One glance at white light will destroy your adapted vision and you’ll have to wait another hour. Of course, this means being in a place without street lights.

Use Red Light: Wait, don’t lose all hope! As it turns out, red light doesn’t destroy adapted vision like normal light. So if you have a red flashlight, use it. It comes in handy, especially when trying to read star charts. “It can be any color, as long as it’s red…”

Look North/NorthEast: The Perseid Meteor Shower (which is annual, by the way) is named as such because meteors from this shower appear to radiate from the constellation Perseus (located in the Northeast these days), but meteors come from all over the sky. Looking North will put in the position to see the radiant point, though.

And, here’s a personal tip that I’m sharing, I learned this from watching past meteor showers:

Keep Your Eyes Moving: Ok, so you’re thinking, what? That’s it? It is. It really helps. If you keep staring at one star, your mind will wander, your eyes will start to close, stars will spin before your eyes… then FLASH. “What? Was that a meteor? Where? Man, I wish I had seen that one…” If you keep your eyes moving from star to star, learning new constellations, noticing star colors, etc., it will keep you alert. And sooner or later a beautiful meteor will streak through the atmosphere.

Enjoy the meteor shower (who knows, it might be a storm!).


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