August 13, 2013 · 11:45 PM
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WHAT'S THIS ABOUT A METEOR SHOWER?
Mark your calendar for the perennial summer favorite meteor shower, the Perseids onSunday night/Monday morning and Monday night/Tuesday morning, August 11-12 and 12-13. The only safe
prediction about the weather is that it will almost certainly be hot and sticky
and probably raining here in the Tampa Bay area since we've hardly gone more
than 24 hours without a thundershower for the past couple of months!
Weather aside, the other thing that sometimes interferes with a good meteor
shower is the moon. When it's near full, it's in the sky most of the night and
will "wash out" many of the dimmer meteors. This year, the moon
will not be interfering with the view--it will be low in the west-southwest
in the early evening and completely out of the picture by midnight or so.
If the weather does happen to be favorable, the predicted rate for the Perseids
tends to vary from around 60 to 100 per hour. Bear in mind that does not mean
that you'll see from one to two meteors every minute you're observing. You
might go 10 to 20 minutes without seeing a single streak in the sky... and then
see 15 in a single minute. Or you could go a whole hour without seeing any at
WHERE DO YOU LOOK? Meteor showers are named
for the constellation from which all of the meteors appear to radiate. In this
case, all of the meteors associated with this shower will appear to
"emerge" from the constellation Perseus. It's just starting to rise
up over the northeastern horizon around midnight, so they'll almost all be
traceable back to the northeastern part of the sky. That doesn't mean you
need to look in that direction however. The meteors can appear anywhere in
the sky... so the
answer to the question "Where to Look" is: Wherever you have your
best view of the sky!
DO YOU NEED IN ORDER TO SEE THE METEOR SHOWER? What if you don't have
a telescope? Actually, the best observing equipment for a meteor shower is a lawn chair!Really. If you have a
telescope... leave it inside. If you have binoculars... again, leave them
inside. All you want to observe with is your own eyes. Looking at the sky
through binoculars will restrict your field to view to a circle just a few
degrees across. If you look through a telescope, you'll be looking at an even
tinier circle of the sky. (It would be like sitting down to watch a movie and
then looking at it through a straw!)
You'll also want some bug spray. When you're laying there at 1:00 in the
morning and not moving... the mosquitoes WILL find you!
If staying up all Sunday or Monday night doesn't fit your schedule because you
have to be up for work, bear in mind that you could get up a little earlier
than normal and observe before the sun comes up on Monday and Tuesday morning
Good luck, clear skies... and let me know if you manage to spot some meteors!