Campus Astronomer Gives Meteoric Viewing Tips
To: University Community and stargazers everywhere
From: Campus Astronomer
Tuesday and Wednesday nights this week mark the peak of the Perseid meteor shower (usually the best meteor shower of the year).
The annual Perseid meteor shower has its peak activity late Tuesday and Wednesday nights this week. At that time, the Earth passes through a stream of dust left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle . As this dust enters our atmosphere it heats up from friction and we see its glow across the sky.
If the weather is clear and you are someplace even vaguely dark, go outside as late in the night as you can and see what you see.
Says Tyler Nordgren, Redlands astronomer, physics professor and experienced night-sky gazer: “The best thing for folks to do is just sit back and relax wherever they are. It's the ultimate in self-service astronomy; it's available for anyone who can simply look up. “
It is predicted that there may be as many as a hundred meteors an hour at the shower's peak which happens locally between the hours of midnight and morning. However, meteors can be seen any hour of the night—
• all you need to do is find a dark place to sit back in a chair with a clear view of the sky;
• let your eyes adjust to the dark by finding a view where you aren't staring into a street light or car lights;
• give yourself 15 minutes and you are virtually guaranteed of seeing a meteor. The darker your location the more you might see (although this year the moon will be up after midnight, and that may obscure sight of fainter meteors).
Meteors can be seen anywhere in the sky, but those associated with this shower will all appear to be coming from a spot on the north eastern horizon (this is towards the constellation of Perseus which gives the shower its name). In Greek mythology, Perseus is the son of Zeus who appeared to his mother Danae as a golden shower. This story is thought to be inspired by the meteor shower.
*Professor Nordgren recently spent a sabbatical year studying our national parks’ night skies. He visited 12 national parks over 12 months, spending one to three weeks in each park. Nordgren talked to experts and park visitors, giving public lectures and looking at the cultural and geological connections between the parks and the night sky. For the popular Grand Canyon National Park, he became the voice of astronomy when he wrote and recorded information for visitors on the night sky stop of a new cell-phone audio tour of the park.
Nordgren’s project is documented on The Planetary Society’s Web site,www.planetary.org/parks