Weekly Space Hangout – August 9, 2013

Gather round the internets for another episode of the Weekly Space Hangout. Where our experienced team of journalists, astronomers and astronomer-journalists bring you up to speed on the big happenings in the universe of space and astronomy.

Our team this week:

Reporters: Casey Dreier, David Dickinson, Amy Shira Teitel, Sondy Springmann, Nicole Gugliuci

Host: Fraser Cain

And here are the stories we covered:
Curiosity Celebrates One Year on Mars
2013 Perseids Meteor Shower
Lori Garver Leaving NASA
Kilonova Discovered
Sun’s Magnetic Field is About to Flip
Japanese HTV-4 Docked
MAVEN Update

We record the Weekly Space Hangout every Friday at Noon Pacific, 3 pm Eastern. Join us live here on Universe Today, over on our YouTube account, or on Google+. Or you can watch the archive after the fact.

The 2013 Perseid Meteor Shower: An Observer’s Guide

The radiant for the Persieds, looking to the NE from latitide ~30N at around 2AM local. Created by the Author in Starry Night).

Get set for the meteoritic grand finale of summer.

Northern hemisphere summer that is. As we head into August, our gaze turns towards that “Old Faithful” of meteor showers, the Perseids. Though summer is mostly behind us now, “meteor shower season” is about to get underway in earnest.

Pronounced “Pur-SEE-ids,” this shower falls around the second week of August, just before school goes back in for most folks. This time of year also finds many the residents of the northern hemisphere out camping and away from light-polluted suburban skies.

This year also offers a special treat, as the Moon will be safely out of the sky during key observation times. The Moon reaches New phase on August 6th at 5:51 PM EDT/ 9:51 Universal Time (UT) and will be a 32% illuminated waxing crescent around the anticipated peak for the Perseid meteors on August 12th. And speaking of which, the Perseids are infamous for presenting a double-fisted twin peak in activity. This year, the first climax for the shower is predicted for around 13:00 UT on August 12th, favoring Hawaii and the North American west coast, and the second peak is set to arrive 13 hours later at 02:00 UT, favoring Europe & Africa.

Nodal crossing for the Perseid stream and Earth’s orbit sits right around 18:00 to 21:00 UT on August 12th for 2013. The shower derives its name from the constellation Perseus, and has a radiant located near Gamma Persei at right ascension 3 hours 4 minutes and a declination of +58 degrees. Atmospheric velocities for the Perseids are on the high end as meteor showers go, at 59km/sec.

Of course, like with any meteor shower, it’s worth starting to watch a few days prior to the peak date. Although meteor streams like the Perseids have been modeled and mapped over the years, there are still lots of surprises out there. Plus, starting an early vigil is insurance that you at least catch some action in the event that you’re clouded out on game day! Like we mentioned in last week’s post on the Delta Aquarids, the Perseids are already active, spanning a season from July 17th to August 24th.

The Zenithal Hourly Rate for the Perseids is generally between 60-100 meteors. The ZHR is the number of meteors you could expect to see during optimal conditions under dark skies with the radiant directly overhead. Rates were enhanced back in the 1990’s, and 2004 saw a ZHR of 200.

The orbit of comet Swift-Tuttle and its intersection near the Earth's orbit. (Created the author using NASA/JPL ephmeris generator).
The orbit of comet Swift-Tuttle and its intersection near the Earth’s orbit. (Created by the author using NASA/JPL ephemerides generator).

The source of the Perseids is comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. Discovered on July 16th-19th, 1862 by astronomers Lewis Swift & Horace Tuttle, Swift-Tuttle is on a 133.3 year orbit and last passed through the inner solar system in late 1992. This comet will once again grace our skies in early 2126 AD.

The Perseids are also sometimes referred to as the “tears of St Lawrence,” after the Catholic saint who was martyred on August 10th, 258 AD. The Perseids have been noted by Chinese astronomers as far back as 36 AD, when it was recorded that “more than 100 meteors flew thither in the morning.” The annual nature of the shower was first described by Belgian astronomer Adolphe Quételet in 1835.

Enhanced rates for the Perseids marked the return of comet Swift-Tuttle in the 1990s. Recent years have seen rates as reported by the International Meteor Organization at a ZHR=175(2009), 91(2010), 58(2011), & a resurgence of a ZHR=122 last year.

Just what will 2013 bring? There’s one truism in meteor observing—you definitely won’t see anything if you do not get out and observe. Meteor shower observing requires no equipment, just clear skies and patience. Watch in the early hours before dawn, when the rates are highest. Meteors can occasionally be seen before midnight, but are marked by lower rates and slow, stately trains across the sky. Some suggest that best viewing is at a 45 degree angle away from the radiant, but we maintain that meteors can appear anywhere in the sky. Pair up with a friend or two and watch in opposite directions to increase your meteor-spotting chances.

We also like to keep a set of binoculars handy to examine those smoke trains left by bright fireballs that may persist seconds after streaking across the sky.

And speaking of which, there has also been some spirited discussion over the past week as to whether or not the Perseids produce more fireballs than any other shower. I certainly remember seeing several memorable fireballs from this shower over the years, although the Geminids, Leonids and Taurids can be just spectacular on active years. The stated r value of the Perseids is one of the lowest at 2.2, suggesting a statistically high percentage of fireballs.

And in the realm of the strange and the curious, here are just a few phenomena to watch/listen for on your Perseid vigil;

–      Can you “hear” meteors? Science says that sounds shouldn’t carry through the tenuous atmosphere above 50 kilometres up, and yet reports of audible meteors as a hiss or crackle persist. Is this an eye-brain illusion? Researchers in 1988 actually studied this phenomenon, which is also sometimes reported during displays of aurora. If there’s anything to it, the culprit may be the localized generation of localized electrophonic noises generated by Extra/Very Low Frequency electromagnetic radiation.

–      Can meteor streaks appear colored? Green is often the top reported hue.

–      Can meteors appear to “corkscrew” during their trajectory, or is this an illusion?

A Perseid very near the shower radiant during the 2012 shower. (Photo by author).
A Perseid very near the shower radiant during the 2012 shower. (Photo by author).

Wide-field photography is definitely a viable option during meteor showers. Just remember to bring extra charged batteries, as long exposure times will drain modern DSLRs in a hurry!

And did you know: you can even “listen” to meteor pings on an FM radio or portable TV? This is a great “rain check” option!

And there’s still real science to be done in the world of meteor shower studies. The International Meteor Organization welcomes counts from volunteers… and be sure to Tweet those Perseid sightings to #Meteorwatch.

Also be sure to check out the UK Meteor Observation Network, which has just launched their live site with streaming images of meteors as they are recorded.

Good luck, clear skies, and let the late 2013 meteor shower season begin!

-And be sure to post those Perseid pics to the Flickr forum on Universe Today… we’ll be doing photo essay roundups from observers around the world!

Astrophoto: Sky Island by Sean Parker

It’s true, the Perseid Meteor shower is the best star show of the year. But sometimes a little enhancement doesn’t hurt. I’ll let astrophotographer Sean Parker tell the story of this image:

A fellow star gazer friend and I both love space and also happen to love photography, so we packed up our gear and headed to the best place to observe the night sky that we know of, Mt. Lemmon. We set up 2 different time-lapses and this was a frame from one of them. In the time-lapse it shows us and other stargazers sitting on the rock observing the Perseid Meteor Shower under the dark skies about 40 minutes out of Tucson in the Catalina Mountains. Unfortunately there was some cloud cover which limited our view, but we were still able to see an acceptable amount of shooting stars.

Because there were other observers using their flashlights in the area, I decided to add some light painting gestures to the shot here and there. The shot is of me holding my phone and doing a circle motion and it just happened to be perfect timing with the meteor going by above the tree.

The Photo was taken at 1:48 AM. The clouds are reflecting the city lights of Tucson, Arizona. I’ve also added a warmer temperature to the image, but not much.

Camera Details:

Canon 5D MK II
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L
20 Second exposure @ ISO-1600

Want to get your astrophoto featured on Universe Today? Join our Flickr group or send us your images by email (this means you’re giving us permission to post them). Please explain what’s in the picture, when you took it, the equipment you used, etc.

Astrophotos: The 2012 Perseid Meteor Shower from Around the World

Caption: Perseid Meteors with Lunar & Planetary Conjunction on August 12, 2012. Credit: John Chumack.

Here’s some great views of the Perseid Meteor Shower from Universe Today readers around the world. Over the weekend was the peak of the annual meteor shower that never seems to disappoint! We start with one of our “regulars,” John Chumack from his observatory in Yellow Springs, Ohio, USA. But there were also many other objects in John’s field of view, including the waning crescent Moon, Venus, and Orion rising over the observatory dome, the Pleaides, Hyades, and Jupiter, too. John used a odified Canon Rebel Xsi & 17mm lens at F4, ISO 400, and a 20 second exposure. See more of John’s wonderful astrophotos at his Flickr page or at his website, Galactic Images.

More beautiful shots below:

Caption: The Perseids on August 13, 2012. Credit: M. Rasid Tugral from Ankara, Turkey

M. Rasid Tugral from Ankara, Turkey sent in this great image from August 13. Tugral is an accomplished astrophotographer and teaches at the Middle East Technical University in the Department of Physics.

By Patrick Cullis (pcully on Flickr) in Colorado, USA, taken on August 12, 2012 using a Canon EOS 5D Mark II.

Caption: Perseids on August 9, 2012. Credit: Nu Am (tazacanitu).

Another great shot from August 9, 2012 by Nu Am (tzacanitu on Flickr) “Out of the camera raw, re-dimensioned to 25% and saved as jpg. Canon 50D + Tamron SP AF 17-50mm f/2.8 XR Di II LD IF @17mm, tripod, ISO 400, 30seconds, f/4.”

Caption: 2012 Perseids on August 12, 2012. Credit: Kevin Jung.

A lovely capture of two Perseid meteors in one shot by Kevin Jung(Kevin’s Stuff on Flickr). “Two Perseid meteors show up in a 30 second image shot during the night of August 11/morning of August 12,” Kevin wrote from Lowell, Michigan, USA. He used a Canon EOS 40D. “Since there were some meteors in all parts of the sky, I just pointed my camera to the north with Perseus just to the right of the frame,” Kevin explained. “I used the intervelometer and took 30 second shots automatically. It was lucky that the skies cleared in time to see anything. We had clouds all day, and then weather system was slow to move out of the area. The started to break up around 10pm, but it was until after midnight when the skies cleared up (with the exception of a few areas).”

Thanks to everyone who shared their images!

Want to get your astrophoto featured on Universe Today? Join our Flickr group or send us your images by email (this means you’re giving us permission to post them). Please explain what’s in the picture, when you took it, the equipment you used, etc.

Easiest Guide Ever to Watching the Perseid Meteor Shower

Caption: A bright fireball meteor on August 1, 2012. Credit: John Chumack.

This will probably be the most simple and easiest guide to viewing the Perseids and other meteor showers you may possibly ever read. The reason why it is so simple is when you are outside you want to concentrate on looking for meteors and not worrying about technical details, which are unnecessary for the casual observer.

First, a LITTLE about the Perseids: The Perseid meteor shower is an annual event occurring every August. They are tiny particles of dust and debris from the tail of a comet (109P/Swift-Tuttle) which planet Earth encounters every year in its orbit around the Sun. When these particles collide with the Earth’s atmosphere, they burn up causing bright flashes and streaks in the night sky. These are known as shooting stars or meteors.

Credit: NASA

To see Perseids (shooting stars/meteors) we only need to do a few simple things.

  1. Plan when you want to look for meteors: Check timings and set aside a good hour or more for observing (away from bright lights if possible). Meteors seldom appear immediately so give yourself a good hour or more to see as many as possible. Late evening and after midnight is a good time for meteor hunting. One of the best time to look, however, is during the dark hours immediately before dawn. There are some good guides with timings, etc. on www.meteorwatch.org, NASA, or Universe Today’s weekly SkyWatcher’s Forecast
  2. Get comfortable: Dress warmly as even in August it can get chilly at night. Find yourself a good garden chair, deck chair, trampoline or place on the ground you can lay a sleeping bag or blanket, as the idea is for you to keep your gaze on the sky for as long as possible. Lying down on the ground or sitting on a reclining garden chair will make this much easier for you. Take with you food and drink to make the evening even more enjoyable.
  3. Where to look: A lot of guides will tell you to look in certain directions at certain times and be far too technical, this is totally unnecessary. All you need to do is look up and fill your gaze with sky for as long as possible (blink and you miss it). Meteors/shooting stars from meteor showers tend to appear randomly all over the sky, they will however originate from a point called the radiant which gives the meteor shower its name the Perseids radiant/point of origin is in the constellation of Perseus, hence the name. You don’t need to look in any particular direction, just look up.
  4. How to look: You do not need a telescope, binoculars or any other viewing aid; you only need your eyes.
  5. What to expect: Don’t expect to see the heavens raining down with fire. Expect to see one or more bright flashes/ streaks of light (meteors/shooting stars) every few minutes. The Perseids can deliver fifty to a hundred meteors per hour at their peak, which is just after the night of the 11th and 12th August through to the 13th and 14th August, be patient and you will see some. Occasionally you may be lucky to see an incredibly bright meteor known as a fireball, these are a real treat. Also, as an added bonus this year, Jupiter, Venus, and the crescent Moon are gathering together in the night sky just as the Perseid meteor shower reaches its peak.

Enjoy yourself and keep looking up, the more you look up the more you will see. When you look away that’s when you miss the best meteor of the evening.

For further information and to join in with the worldwide #meteorwatch on twitter follow @virtualastro and visit meteorwatch.org

Good luck!

Weekly SkyWatcher’s Forecast: August 6-12, 2012

Globular Cluster M15 from Hubble - Credit: ESA, Hubble, NASA

Greetings, fellow SkyWatchers! While you start your observing week out by watching the Mars Curiosity Landing, be sure to step outside and view the Aquarid meteor shower, too! It’s going to be a grand week for globular cluster studies and breezing along the Milky Way. Whenever you’re ready to learn some more history, mystery and just plain fun things about the night sky, then meet me in the back yard.

Monday, August 6 – Today in 2001 the Galileo spacecraft made its flyby of Jupiter’s moon – Io -sending back incredible images of the surface. For southern hemisphere observers, be on watch as the Iota Aquarid meteor shower peaks on this Universal date.

Tonight our studies of globular clusters continues as we look deeper into structure. As a rule, globular clusters normally contain a large number of variable stars, and most are usually the RR Lyrae type such as in earlier study M54. At one time they were known as “cluster variables,” with their number differing from one globular to another. Many globulars also contain vast numbers of white dwarfs. Some have neutron stars which are detected as pulsars, but out of all 151, only four have planetary nebulae in them.

Now, let us head toward the emerging constellation of Pegasus and the magnitude 6.5, class IV M15 (Right Ascension: 21 : 30.0 – Declination: +12 : 10). Easily located with even small binoculars about four degrees northwest of Enif, this magnificent globular cluster is a true delight in a telescope. Amongst the globulars, M15 ranks third in variable star population with 112 identified. As one of the densest of clusters, it is surprising that it is considered to be only class III. Its deeply concentrated core is easily apparent, and has begun the process of core collapse. The central core itself is very small compared to the cluster’s true size and almost half M15?s mass is contained within it. Although it has been studied by the Hubble, we still do not know if this density is caused by the cluster stars’ mutual gravity, or if it might disguise a supermassive object similar to those in galactic nuclei.

M15 was the first globular cluster in which a planetary nebula, known as Pease 1, could be identified. Larger aperture scopes can easily see it at high power. Surprisingly, M15 also is home to 9 known pulsars, which are neutron stars left behind from previous supernovae during the cluster’s evolution, and one of these is a double neutron star. While total resolution is impossible, a handful of bright stars can be picked out against that magnificent core region and wonderful chains and streams of members await your investigation tonight!

Tuesday, August 7 – On this date in 1959, Explorer 6 became the first satellite to transmit photographs of the Earth from its orbit.

Tonight, let’s return again to look at two giant globular clusters roughly equal in size, but not equal in class. To judge them fairly, you must use the same eyepiece. Start first by re-locating previous study M4. This is a class IX globular cluster. Notice the powder-like qualities. It might be heavily populated, but it is not dense. Now return to previous study M13. This is a class V globular cluster. Most telescopes will make out at least some resolution and a distinct core region. It is the level of condensation that determines the class. It is no different from judging magnitudes and simply takes practice.

Try your hand at M55 (Right Ascension:19 : 40.0 – Declination: -30 : 58) along the bottom of the Sagittarius “teapot” – it’s a class XI. Although it is a full magnitude brighter than class I M75, which we looked at earlier in the week, can you tell the difference in concentration? For those with GoTo systems, take a quick hop through Ophiuchus and look at the difference between NGC 6356 (class II) and NGC 6426 (class IX). If you want to try one that they can’t even classify? Look no further than M71 (Right Ascension: 19 : 53.8 – Declination: +18 : 47) in Sagitta. It’s all a wonderful game and the most fun comes from learning!

In the meantime, don’t forget all those other wonderful globular clusters such as 47 Tucanae, Omega Centauri, M56, M92, M28 and a host of others!

Wednesday, August 8 – Today in 2001, the Genesis Solar Particle Sample Return mission was launched. In September of 2004, it crash landed in the Utah desert with its precious payload. Although some of the specimens were contaminated, some did survive the mishap. So what is “star stuff?” Mostly highly charged particles generated from a star’s upper atmosphere and flowing out in a state of matter known as plasma…

Tonight let’s study one of the grandest of all solar winds as we seek out an area about three fingerwidths above the Sagittarius “teapot’s spout” as we have a look at magnificent M8 (Right Ascension: 18 : 03.8 – Declination: -24 : 23), the “Lagoon Nebula.”

Visible to the unaided eye as a hazy spot in the Milky Way, fantastic in binoculars, and an area truly worth study in any size scope, this 5200 light-year area of emission, reflection and dark nebulae has a rich history. Its involved star cluster – NGC 6530 – was first discovered by Flamsteed around 1680, and the nebula by Le Gentil in 1747. Cataloged by Lacaille as III.14 about 12 years before Messier listed it as number 8, its brightest region was recorded by John Herschel and the dark nebulae were discovered by Barnard.

Tremendous areas of starbirth are taking place in this region; while young, hot stars excite the gases in a are known as the “Hourglass,” around Herschel star 36 and 9 Sagittarius. Look closely around cluster NGC 6530 for Barnard dark nebulae B89 and B296 at the nebula’s southern edge. No matter how long you chose to swim in the “Lagoon” you will sure find more and more things to delight both the mind and the eye!

Thursday, August 9 – Today in 1976, the Luna 24 mission was launched on a return mission of its own – not to retrieve solar winds samples, but lunar soil! Remember this mission as we take a look at its landing site in the weeks ahead.

Tonight we’ll return to the nebula hunt as we head about a fingerwidth north and just slightly west of M8 for the “Trifid”…

M20 (Right Ascension: 18 : 02.3 – Declination: -23 : 02) was discovered by Messier on June 5, 1764, and much to his credit, he described it as a cluster of stars encased in nebulosity. This is truly a wonderful observation since the Trifid could not have been easy given his equipment. Some 20 years later William Herschel (although he usually avoided repeating Messier objects) found M20 of enough interest to assign separate designations to parts of this nebula – IV.41, V.10, V.11, V.12. The word “Trifid” was used to describe its beauty by John Herschel.

While M20 is a very tough call in binoculars, it is not impossible with good conditions to see the light of an area that left its home nearly a millennium ago. Even smaller scopes will pick up this round, hazy patch of both emission and reflection, but you will need aversion to see the dark nebula which divides it. This was cataloged by Barnard as B85. Larger telescopes will find the Trifid as one of the very few objects that actually appears much in the eyepiece as it does in photographs – with each lobe containing beautiful details, rifts and folds best seen at lower powers. Look for its cruciform star cluster and its fueling multiple system while you enjoy this triple treat tonight!

Friday, August 10 – Today in 1966 Lunar Orbiter 1 was successfully launched on its mission to survey the Moon. In the weeks ahead, we’ll take a look at what this mission sent back!

Tonight we’ll look at another star forming region as we head about a palm’s width north of the lid star (Lambda) in the Sagittarius teapot as we seek out “Omega”…

Easily viewed in binoculars of any size and outstanding in every telescope, the 5000 light-year distant Omega Nebula was first discovered by Philippe Loys de Cheseaux in 1745-46 and later (1764) cataloged by Messier as object 17. This beautiful emission nebula is the product of hot gases excited by the radiation of newly born stars. As part of a vast region of interstellar matter, many of its embedded stars don’t show in photographs, but reveal themselves beautifully to the eye of the telescope. As you look at its unique shape, you realize that many of these areas are obscured by dark dust, and this same dust is often illuminated by the stars themselves.

Often known as the “Swan,” M17 (Right Ascension: 18 : 20.8 – Declination: -16 : 11) will appear as a huge, glowing check mark or ghostly “2? in the sky – but power up if you use a larger telescope and look for a long, bright streak across its northern edge, with extensions to both the east and north. While the illuminating stars are truly hidden, you will see many glittering points in the structure itself and at least 35 of them are true members of this region spanning about 40 light-years that could contain up to 800 solar masses. It is awesome…

Saturday, August 11 – On this date in 1877, Asaph Hall of the U.S. Naval Observatory was very busy. This night would be the first time he would see Mars’ outer satellite Deimos! Six nights later, he observed Phobos, giving Mars its grand total of two moons.

Tonight after midnight is the peak of the Perseid meteor shower, and this year there’s not so much Moon to contend with! Now let’s sit back and talk about the Perseids while we watch…

The Perseids are undoubtedly the most famous of all meteor showers and never fail to provide an impressive display. Their activity appears in Chinese history as far back as 36 AD. In 1839, Eduard Heis was the first observer to give an hourly count, and discovered their maximum rate was around 160 per hour at that time. He, and other observers, continued their studies in subsequent years to find that this number varied.

Giovanni Schiaparelli was the first to relate the orbit of the Perseids to periodic comet Swift-Tuttle (1862 III). The fall rates have both risen and fallen over the years as the Perseid stream was studied more deeply, and many complex variations were discovered. There are actually four individual streams derived from the comet’s 120 year orbital period which peak on slightly different nights, but tonight through tomorrow morning at dawn is our accepted peak.

Meteors from this shower enter Earth’s atmosphere at a speed of 60 km/sec (134,000 miles per hour), from the general direction of the border between the constellations Perseus and Cassiopeia. While they can be seen anywhere in the sky, if you extend their paths backward, all the true members of the stream will point back to this region of the sky. For best success, position yourself so you are generally facing northeast and get comfortable. If you are clouded out, don’t worry. The Perseids will be around for a few more days yet, so continue to keep watch!

And speaking of watching… If you’re out late, be sure to watch for a Jupiter/Moon conjunction. What an inspiring bit of sky scenery to watch them rise together! For lucky viewers in the Indonesia area, this is an occultation event, so please be sure to check resources for times and locations in your area.

Sunday, August 12 – Did you mark your calendar to be up before dawn to view the Perseid meteor shower? Good!

Tonight while dark skies are on our side, we’ll fly with the “Eagle” as we hop another fingerwidth north of M17 and head for one of the most famous areas of starbirth – IC 4703.

While the open cluster NGC 6611 was first discovered by Cheseaux in 1745-6, it was Charles Messier who cataloged the object as M16 and he was the first to note the nebula IC 4703 (Right Ascension: 18 : 18.9 – Declination: -13 : 47), more commonly known as the “Eagle.” At 7000 light-years distant, this roughly 7th magnitude cluster and nebula can be spotted in binoculars, but at best it is a hint. As part of the same giant cloud of gas and dust as neighboring M17, the Eagle is also a place of starbirth illuminated by these hot, high energy stellar youngsters which are only about five and a half million years old.

In small to mid-sized telescopes, the cluster of around 20 brighter stars comes alive with a faint nebulosity that tends to be brighter in three areas. For larger telescopes, low power is essential. With good conditions, it is very possible to see areas of dark obscuration and the wonderful “notch” where the Pillars of Creation lie. Immortalized by the Hubble Space telescope, you won’t see them as grand or colorful as it did, but what a thrill to know they are there!

Until next week? Clear skies!

Meteors Sound Like Aliens!

A space radar picked up the sounds of a meteor shower as it delighted skywatchers over the weekend.

What do meteors sounds like as they hit Earth’s atmosphere? From this recording made by the U.S. Air Force Space Surveillance Radar in Texas, the “pings” from the Perseid Meteor Shower sound rather alien! The radar station in Lake Kickapoo, Texas is part of United States Strategic Command’s (USSTRATCOM), which involves detecting, tracking, cataloging and identifying artificial objects orbiting Earth, such as both active and inactive satellites, spent rocket bodies, or fragments of debris from natural and man-made objects. Reportedly, the radar can detect objects as small as 10 cm (four inches) at heights up to 30,000 km.

Your Perseid Images from Around — and Above — the World!

A Perseid through the sky. Credit: Nahum Mendez Chazarra, Rojales, Spain. Click to see this image and more on Flickr


We made a wish that our readers would send in their images of the Perseid Meteor Shower, and it came true! Despite a full Moon and clouds scattered around the world, we heard from many of you that you saw — and successfully imaged — the 2011 Perseids. Many of you took advantage of Universe Today’s new Flickr group, an easy way to have readers share their astrophotos with us. Above is a colorful image of a Perseid streaking through the sky by Nahum Mendez Chazarra, in Rojales, Spain.

Below, see an image take from up above the world so high: astronaut Ron Garan on board the International Space Station captured his view looking down at a Perseid streaking through sky!

'What a shooting star looks like from space," wrote ISS astronaut Ron Garan on Twitter. Click for larger version
Faint meteor. Credit: Andrei Juravle, Timisoara, Romania. Click for larger version on Flickr

This is another Flickr submission, from Andrei Juravle, Timisoara, Romania. Click to see this image and more from Andrei.

A Chicago meteor! Taken near downtown Chicago under a nearly full moon on August 12th 2011. Credit: Janet Branson. Click through for Flickr version.

Impressive! This image was taken in the light-filled skies of Chicago, Illinois by Janet Branson.

Paul Miller from San Diego, California took the following two very nice images from Mt. Laguna:

Bright Perseid. Credit: Paul MIller, San Diego, California.
A Perseid meteor and much more! Credit: Paul MIller, San Diego, California
A Perseid meteor is caught on camera by the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope's mounted low-light Cloudcam before dawn on the morning of August 12, 2011. Still frame cropped and edited by J. Major

Here’s one from our own Jason Major — kind of! He found the Perseid streaking through the sky on footage from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope’s mounted low-light Cloudcam, and created this image.

First meteor! Credit: Leonard Ellul Mercer, Malta, EU

How’s this for beginniner luck?! “Last night I captured my first ever Perseid image with Andromeda on its upper left,” said Leonard Ellul Mercer from Malta. “This is the first time I tried imaging meteors. Was just lucky even though there was a bright full moon overhead.”

Keep imaging, Leonard — nice shot!

Meteor, or something else? Credit: Michaela Knott.

“I took this on August 12, 2011 I’m not sure what it is,” wrote in Michaela Knott, “but I know it’s not a plane (which is what most of what shows up in my time lapse ends up being). This year I think I only saw 2 dozen or so meteors over two nights I went out looking.”

Shot with a Nikon D60, 28mm lens f2.8 10 sec exposure at the Frosty Drew Observatory in Charlestown RI, USA. “It was taken @ 9:42 EST, still pretty early in the evening,” Michaela said.

Timelapse, Perseids and stars on August 12, 2011.Credit: David Parmet. Click to see this image and more on Flickr.

Enjoy the Perseid Meteor Shower Even if it’s Cloudy

Credit: bbc.co.uk


Oh no! You have planned to go out and watch the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower this weekend, but it’s cloudy. You can’t see a thing!

Don’t despair, as you can still enjoy the meteor shower in other ways, until the sky clears.

There are few possibilities and two rely on reflections of radio signals from distant sources, such as TV transmitters many hundreds of miles away.

You can “listen” to meteors with Spaceweather Radio.

Or you can “watch” a visual graph is with the Meteorscan Meteor Live View created at the Norman Lockyer observatory in Devon England

How do these work? Basically these transmitters are at a distance where they are beneath the horizon from the radio receivers perspective. If you tune into this far of transmitter all you would normally get is static as it is so far away and hidden, due to being below the horizon.

Credit: IMO

When a meteor strikes Earth’s atmosphere it decelerates rapidly. The friction created by the air causes the meteor to burn up at extremely high temperatures creating the white “shooting star” that we are all familiar with. This process also ionizes the air along the trail making it possible to reflect radio waves.

The reflected signals are picked up by the radio receiver and can be heard as pings or whistles. Data can also be displayed on a computer in the form of different types of graph.

Meteor Live View Credit: Adrian West

There will also be a live audio and video stream, along with a live “Stay Up All Night” chat about the Perseids with NASA astronomer Bill Cooke and his team from the Marshall Space Flight Center as they answer your questions about the Perseids via live Web chat. Join them on Friday, Aug. 12 at 11 p.m. EDT — 03:00 UTC GMT — then make plans to stay “up all night” until 5:00 a.m. EDT on Saturday, Aug. 13.

Of course, as we have mentioned before, you can join in with watching the Perseids with the rest of the world via Twitter and the #Meteorwatch hashtag. Even if you can’t see any meteors, you can see where other people are watching them with the Twitter Meteor Map

Check out all these fantastic and interesting meteor tools and hopefully you’ll have a chance to go out and enjoy the shower with your eyes when the sky clears.

Send Us Your Perseid Images!

Bright Fireball Credit: Adrian West


This weekend should be the peak of the 2011 Perseid meteor shower. If you have any luck taking images of the event, we’d love to see them and share them with the world! To enable this, Universe Today has started a Flickr Group, where people can upload their astrophotos, which will make it easier for us to share everyone’s photos. If we use your image, we will give you full credit and link back to your Flickr account. Or if you’d rather submit your images via email, send them to Nancy, along with a little info about it (where/when/equipment/etc.)

We hope to soon begin a new ‘Amateur Astrophoto of the Day’ feature where we will use pictures people have sent us via Flickr as well, so look for more info on that soon.

In the meantime, get out and enjoy the Perseids, and remember you can share the experience with others via Twitter with MeteorWatch, led by UT’s Adrian West! Follow the #Meteorwatch hashtag, and Adrian’s @VirtualAstro Twitter feed.