11 August 2010

Perseid Meteor Shower 2010

The Perseid Meteor Shower reaches its peak this week and the timing is very good for a fine display of meteors. Every year when the Perseids come around, the biggest concern is the Moon. Its beautiful light is a welcome sight to many, but for amateur astronomers and anyone wishing to see more than a few meteors, moonlight can ruin an otherwise-perfect evening of viewing. This year the Moon is very young during the Perseids and sets not long after sunset, leaving a dark sky for the shower.

The Perseids peak on the nights of Thursday 12th and Friday 13th, with best viewing on Thursday night / Friday morning. You can get detailed information on the Sky and Telescope website or on numerous other web resources.

The best way to see the meteor shower is to find a dark location, give your eyes plenty of time to adapt to the darkness, and be prepared to stay up late (or get up early). Meteor showers are almost always best viewed after midnight when the Earth is powering directly into the meteor stream and the rate increases substantially. The Perseids appear to originate in the constellation Perseus which is in the east after midnight, but that does not mean you have to specifically look east to see the meteors. Lying on a blanket facing directly overhead gives you the most expansive view and you can see meteors coming from the east or passing overhead toward the west. Meteors are wonderful, fast, elusive wonders and you simply need to be warmly dressed, in a place where you can see as much of the sky as possible without light distractions, and patience. I wish you clear skies and a great night or two observing.

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