Perseids 2007

This weekend is a good time to see the Perseid meteor shower as the Earth slams into the tail of material left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle. Earth's atmosphere hits the small fragments at around 60 kilometres per second and the resulting friction causes the air to glow. These fragments are called meteors but are more commonly, and incorrectly, known as "shooting stars". The best time to observe the shower is after midnight this Sunday night (i.e. very early on Monday morning) although you may see a few meteors on the nights either side of the 12th. This year we are particularly lucky because the Moon is new so won't be creating too much sky glow.

You don't need to know a lot about the sky to see the shower and Phil Plait has good advice on the 12 things you need to prepare. My advice is that you should make sure that you have warm clothes even if it is the middle of summer because it gets quite chilly in the middle of the night if you aren't really moving about. Also, get yourself a good deckchair/lawnchair to sit in to save your neck.

Below I've included an image, created with Stellarium, showing the Eastern sky at about 2am on Monday 13th August 2007. As well as watching for meteors, you can also spot the planet Mars. Mars is a few degrees above the star Aldebaran which is one of the eyes of Taurus (the Bull).

The Perseid meteor shower as seen from mid-northern latitudes at around 2am on 12th August 2007. CREDIT: Stuart/Stellarium

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Thursday 09th Aug 2007 (22:44 PDT) | Permalink
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