Get Ready for the Perseids: Join the World in Watching

by Nancy Atkinson on July 30, 2010

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This year’s Perseid meteor shower on August 11-14 is predicted to be one of the best in recent years, and if this awesome trailer from “MeteorWatch” organizer Adrian West doesn’t get you excited, then nothing will! Who knew meteors could be such a heart-pumping thrill ride! If you haven’t heard of MeteorWatch, it is a way to watch the shower with others, and share your experiences even if you are out there watching all alone. This is a social media astronomical event that has been a big hit among Twitterers for previous events. But there’s lots of ways to join in, not only on Twitter (hashtage is #meteorwatch). Everyone is welcome whether they are an astronomer or just have an interest in the night sky. The aim is to get as many people to look up as possible and maybe see meteors or even some fireballs for the first time. Here are a few additional resources:

1) a dedicated website with a “live” Twitter page
2) a handy Twitter observation reporting system, (still being coded, so check the website out as the Perseids approach) to map and archive international meteor counts, etc.
3) live AstronomyFM (AFM) Radio updates from the Under British Skies crew in England, with possible updates from other places around the world.
4) Meteorwatch is also on Facebook

Tavi Greiner from “A Sky Full of Stars” has some fun Perseid facts, as well as some tips for planning for the Perseids.

And if it is cloudy where you are for the Perseids, you can always try listening for meteor “pings” via radio. Its very cool and fun, too. Here’s some information on the 2009 perseids.

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

J. Major July 30, 2010 at 3:03 PM

WOW. Nice trailer for a non-summer-movie event! Although I’d much rather stare at the night sky for two hours rather than watch anything that’s been released in theaters this year. ;)

Jon Hanford July 30, 2010 at 1:08 PM

Circumstances look good for a great showing of the Perseids this year. The moon will set as a waxing crescent early in the evenings around the date of the peak, leaving the skies dark for the prime post-midnight hours. The American Meteor Society has a very thorough review of this years shower, including tips for meteor photography and how to tell non-Perseids from the real deal (& written for newbies as well as more experienced observers). From their description:

“The Earth is predicted to pass closest to the core of P109 Swift-Tuttle[the parent comet] near 0100 Universal Time on August 13. This timing favors western Asia. Both the mornings of August 12 and 13 will be good for North America, with perhaps the 13th offering slightly more activity due to the fact we are closer to the predicted time of maximum activity.”

“On the mornings of August 12 and 13, I would estimate peak rates to be near 60 for those under transparent rural skies. Those under dark but hazy skies should still be able to see 30-40 Perseids per hour. Those under urban skies will be lucky to exceed 20 per hour.” Now if the weather cooperates…….:D

AMS 2010 Perseids page: http://www.amsmeteors.org/showers.html

Aqua July 30, 2010 at 4:50 PM

In 1994 the Perseid numbers approached ‘storm’ levels. I was a member of the Wragg Canyon Star Gazers astronomy club. We viewed the storm from Lake Berryessa in Napa County, CA. We counted an average of 284 meteors an hour! What fun!

I thought that was going to be the best storm I’d ever witness.. then came the Leonids of Nov. 17th (My birthday!), 2001. I went up into the local mountains for a viewing. I took my telescope along as matter of course. Seeing me by the side of the road several people stopped by and I offered views of the winter sky as we waited to see the meteors. The numbers kept climbing as the evening progressed. By 3 A.M. we (Those of us who remained) counted over 1,000 per hour! Definitely a night to remember! One fellow was laying down wrapped up (It was COLD that night!) in a blue plastic tarp I’d brought along with me. He said he could HEAR THE METEORS! We all took turns laying on that tarp, and sure enough… we heard a faint sizzling sound as the brighter meteors passed overhead!

Here’s hoping this year’s Perseids surprise us!

Emilio July 31, 2010 at 3:16 AM

Such drama! I was expecting one of the meteor to hit the meteor watcher!

William928 August 2, 2010 at 4:03 PM

@AQUA:

One meteor roughly every 3.5 seconds? Quite a show, you must have become dizzy! I eagerly await this year’s show. I also live in N. CA, any tips on the best viewing sites? I’m about 25 mi. east of SF.

hiitsmeamelie August 4, 2010 at 2:22 AM

WILLIAM928

I’m also in N. CA about 25 miles east of SF. Did you get any response to your best viewing sites question? I’m on the delta. You?

William928 August 4, 2010 at 3:21 PM

@HITSMEAMELIE:

I haven’t gotten a response for best viewing in our area. I live in the Pleasant Hill/Walnut Creek area. I’m thinking Mt. Diablo would be a good choice.

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