Sunday, 11 August 2013

Meteor Shower Tonight

I have been interested in astronomy for as long as I can remember. 

The number of meteors in an hour is known as the ZHR rate. (Zenithal Hourly Rate) The Perseids can have very high ZHR rates. The meteors are associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle.  The stream of debris which creates the meteors is called the Perseid cloud and stretches along the orbit of the comet. The Earth on its orbit passes through the debris trail each year.

The peak in activity being between August 9 and 14 each year.  During the peak, the rate of meteors often reaches 60 or more per hour. They can be seen all across the sky, but because of the path of Swift-Tuttle's orbit, Perseids are primarily visible in the northern hemisphere. As with all meteor showers, the rate is greatest in the pre-dawn hours. The weather tonight and tomorrow promises to be good enough to make observations worthwhile.

As of early morning on August 11, the zenithal hourly rate (ZHR) of meteors visible in a dark sky has gone up to 48! That’s according to the International Meteor Organization. It’s time to watch meteors! The peak mornings for the annual Perseid meteor shower will be August 11, 12 and 13, but clearly any time now is good.

Early morning of the 12th of August might be the best morning. Late night of the 11th of August should be the best late night. The moon is waxing now but should not be a problem. The Delta Aquarid and Perseid meteor showers combine in late July and August to create what most consider the best and most reliable meteor display for Northern Hemisphere observers. As always, after midnight is the best time for meteor-watching. The moon will be there, but getting thinner.

Find a dark, open sky far away from the harsh glare of city lights, lie down comfortably on a reclining chair and enjoy the show. You don’t need to know the constellations. You don’t need special equipment. Simply look up to watch Perseid meteors streaking the nighttime sky. Look towards the North East night sky for best effect.

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