The Perseids, 2013

A multicolored, long Perseid meteor striking t...

 

The Perseids meteor shower, for me, is the best meteor shower out there. It’s activity is set to peak on the 12th of August. The Perseids is famous for a large hourly rate of 80 although this can sometimes be a lot higher. The meteors can be seen radiating from the constellation of Perseus in the Northern hemisphere. The meteor shower is the best one out there for me because it’s radiant in Perseus stays in the sky from about 1 hour after sunset until early morning, giving a large window to observe the meteors. The Perseids radiant will be between the North , in the evening, and East in the morning, in UK skies. What’s more, the moon will be below the horizon by the time the show starts, so it will not cause any interference as it has done during previous years.

The meteors from the Perseids originate from the comet Swift-Tuttle which last passed through the inner solar system in 1992. Swift-Tuttle is next expected to make a close appearance in 2126 AD. The Perseids is also known for producing ‘fireball meteors’. These are brighter meteors that last a lot longer in the sky than the typical meteor. Most normal meteors are only dust particles burning up when they enter the Earth’s atmosphere, but fireballs are slightly bigger, and can be the size of small pebbles.

Perseid fireball (photo credit: universetoday.com)

How to see the Perseids

Observing a meteor shower isn’t as hard as it first may seem. But here are a few tips to help you to observe the Perseids:

  1. Location-  It is important to choose where you observe carefully. It has to be accessible and safe, but also has to be dark enough to see a decent amount of meteors. A dark location away from city lights is best, although this is not possible for most people. However, just driving a few miles away from your town, will increase the number you will see. Alternatively you could just stay in your back garden, I observe most meteors like this and I have seen a lot of them when I have the correct weather. If you have an annoying street lights, like I do, try blocking them out with something, you can position yourself so that a tree blocks most of the light from them and that will help significantly.
  2. Equipment- If you are planning on just wanting to see the meteor shower, then you don’t really need any expensive or complicated equipment. In fact, I have found that observing meteors often is best with just using the naked eye. other than that, you just need things to make observing more comfortable such as a deck chair or a mat to lie down on. Also, even though the Perseids occur in the Summer, the nights can still be quite cold if you are not moving around, so take something to keep you warm, and perhaps a few refreshments to keep your energy levels up, the excitement of meteor showers can be exhausting! Also, if you need some light whilst observing, use a red torch or if you don’t have that, cover a normal torch with a red sweet wrapper, so you only get red light. This will mean you can have some light whilst ,at the same time, not adding to the light pollution.
  3. Timings- you want to make sure you see the meteor shower at its best times. This year the peak date will be the 12th August but this can vary year to year. It is best to start observing at least 1 hour after sunset, so the sky has time to darken. If observing in the morning make sure you start a few hours before sunrise to give yourself plenty of time. Also when the sky is dark enough, allow your eyes time to adjust to the conditions, this will increase the amount of meteors you will see. It can take around 20 to 30 minutes for your eyes to fully adjust to the dark.

Sources

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