This year's Perseids are expected to be a bit stronger than normal, although the Moon will dampen the show during the peak, making it hard to see
fainter meteors. The Perseid meteor stream however, is usually rich in bright and often colorful meteors, so moon or no moon, you nearly always get to
see something if you observe a peak when the sky is clear.
Perseid meteors are only seen when Earth passes through the dust left behind comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle as it orbits around the sun. Earth encounters
these trails every August and as it does so the tiny dust-sized particles which left the comet many decades, and even many centuries ago in some
cases, slam into the atmosphere at a mind boggling 59km/sec creating the dazzling streaks in the sky that we know as Perseid meteors.
Since Perseids appear to radiate away from Perseus, they are named after the constellation by convention. Be aware that other showers are also active
during this time (and indeed throughout the year), so be careful not to count meteors that do not point back to Perseus if you extend their trails
back in your head. Look out for occasional unmistakably slow Alpha
Capricornids, and the Kappa Cygnids which are also much slower than any
Perseid meteor you will see.
The peak this year is expected to occur in the early hours (UT) of August 12th according to
Mikhail Maslov's predictions which is best suited for the US East coast.
The "traditional peak" that is due to background activity should occur over the following night (12/13th).
A rate of around 200 per hour under ideal conditions is possible this year during the expected peak, and there could well be secondary peaks, so keep
your eyes on the sky.
If you can, and/or the weather forecast is looking bad for the main night, try to watch for them in the nights leading up to the 11/12th, as well as
the following night (13/14th) after the "traditional peak", which can also be very good!
The meteor shower is already underway, and rates will continue to rise as we approach the peak. The International Meteor
Organization has a "live ZHR graph" which lets you monitor Perseid activity. An archive with
the graphs for last year and the year before can be found here.
Remember, the best rates are usually just before it starts to get light, so plan to observe for some time if you can, or else set the alarm to wake
you if you must get 1 or 2 hours sleep before hand! Personally, I try to observe as soon as it starts to get dark, especially during the peak and
nights either side.
Although they are not that common, it's at this time that you are most likely to see "earth-grazers".
I wrote this about earth-grazers in another thread:
Originally posted by C.H.U.D.
If you want to see long graceful meteors rather than brief streaks, observe when the meteor shower radiant is on or close to the horizon. This usually
means just after dark, sometimes an hour or two later depending on the shower and your location.
Although you may not see many, the meteors (belonging to most major showers) that you see early on in the night are usually meteors that are skimming
the outside edge of the atmosphere (called "earthgrazers"), which means that they last longer (less thick atmosphere to be battered with) and due to
the angle/perspective, look much longer.
Sometimes they travel nearly all the way from horizon to horizon, either shooting upwards, apparently from the ground and directly over head, or low
and parallel with the horizon, and IMO are probably amongst the most amazing meteors you can see.
They typically play tricks on your eyes, seeming much lower than they actually are for some reason more than most "normal shower members" in my
experience, and a really bright one, if you are lucky, is likely to bring your lower jaw in contact with the ground (if you happen to be standing
whilst observing one like this)
Here's a bright Leonid earthgrazer from 2001, taken during a storm with an all sky camera:
They are now almost falling directly down towards you, rather than approaching you from the side and flying overhead like a "jet fly-by" as they
were earlier on. This is because Earth is turning, and meteors belonging to the same shower always travel more or less parallel to one another in
their orbit around the Sun, so we can predict what angle a meteor would approach us from at any given time in relation to a specific point on Earth's
What time earth-grazers will be visible depends on your location. Here is a program that can help you work out the time by showing you the height of
the Perseid radiant above (or if it's below) the horizon at your location: Download MetShow
from the International Meteor Organization
If you have a video camera or still camera, try to capture some Perseid meteors. Fast wide-normal lenses and high ISOs work best. Focus on infinity
(the Moon for example) and aim ~45 degrees away from Perseus. See the links below for further details, and feel free to U2U me if you have any
This great video covers almost everything, but I would argue on a few points that were mentioned:
1: It's usually better to be totally flat when observing meteors since you can catch meteors close to any horizon with your peripheral vision when
facing directly upwards.
2. If you live in a warm/tropical climate, you might get away with a blanket (or even less) to keep you warm, but I'd advise putting on multiple
layers of warm cloths, and jumping into a sleeping bag if you want to observe for any length of time. If you are too warm (unlikely in most cases)
then you can always remove a layer of cloths or two.
3. The camera exposure times he mentioned could be at the upper end of the scale if you have any light pollution at you're site and/or depending on
your equipment/settings/how you want your photo to appear. It's worth experimenting before hand, but if you are using fast lenses/high ISOs (which
you should be if you want to catch any meteors), exposures can be as short as 5 or 10 seconds. See links below for more info.
I also care chud. thank you again. you are always on the ball when it comes to the meteor showers and I thank you again for the reminder as I don't
always get the time to visit all the sites I would like to. I must say you have excelled yourself this time with the detail in you'r post and I hope
to make use of the details you have provided. keep up the good work..
I wonder if the military know something they don't want anyone else to know, seeing as how they stopped allowing scientists the use of their
equipment (paid for with taxpayer money) to detect incoming meteors
Does "particularly spectacular" mean lots of incoming space rocks?
I really need to move out of the city, havent even been here for a year and its just these sort of things that make me want to be back in a nice quiet
out of the way place again.
Still as always great information provided C.H.U.D.
chiron613 - I live in the city too (well the suburbs of a big city anyway). I often observe from here if I can't get out of the city. Don't let it
put you off. The Perseids are often bright enough to be seen from the city, although you will miss the faintest meteors, and will have to wait a bit
longer in between meteors. Try to keep stray lights out of your eyes, be patient, and you should still get a good show.
jkrok08 - My pleasure. Thanks.
daz - You're welcome. Good luck.
werrenb - The military are still going to provide the data from those satellites, contrary to what they said at first. They clarified the situation. I
posted an update here that no one seems to have noticed: www.abovetopsecret.com...
The fact is, the detectors on those satellites only observe meteors while they are in our atmosphere. They are incapable of "tracking" meteoroids
while they are in space, and thus predicting when they will arrive, unlike many on this forum think.
"Particularly spectacular" is a relative term. Yes, we will experience an increase in the rate of meteoroids entering our atmosphere, and they
are spectacular to watch, but you have to remember that most "rocks" are actually dust-sized, or in the case of brighter meteors, they might
be pebble, or even tennis ball sized.
We also know that these particular meteoroids are ejected by a comet, and cometary material is super-fragile, a bit like the consistency of cigarette
ash. When it hits the atmosphere it often disintegrates almost immediately in a bright flash of light. That can be very spectacular, but there is no
real danger from a meteor shower like this!
Some think that there might be the occasional large chunk of comet that accompanies the small dust sized meteoroids, but no one has ever observed such
an event connected with this type of meteor shower.
Big rocks (asteroids and stray chunks of comet) do hit our atmosphere fairly often anyway, but our atmosphere is very good at slowing them down and
breaking them up, so having something hit the ground (which is what I think you were implying) with any real force is exceedingly rare, and
usually not connected with known meteor showers like the Perseids.
Observe them, and let us know if you thought they were spectacular or not.
The last time i saw this shower really clearly,was around ten years ago,and i have got to say,it was just about the most impressive thing i have ever
My friends and i were lying flat out in the middle of a field in the middle of nowhere,and it is something we all remember to this day!
Thanx for the info,and i will be keeping my eyes to the skies again this year!
My daughter and I, and a couple of neighbors, laid out in the backyard last night to view the Perseid Meteor Shower.
There were only about 2-3 visible an hour where I live, but two of them in particular, over the course of the night, were the most spectacular I've
ever seen in my life!
The first one was visible for over 5 seconds and it's tail was visible across two-thirds of the sky, going from the Northern sky to the Southern sky.
It was unbelievable! However, at that low of light, the sensor on my Digital Camera was too slow to capture it.
The second one was the first that I have ever seen that tumbled an erratic path rather than a straight path. You could see it breaking up into smaller
off-shoots as it tumbled through the sky. Absolutely amazing.
I so wish I had gotten pictures, but at least it was an incredible Astronomical Show that my daughter won't ever forget.
I was out last evening at around 9:30pm and witnessed one from the general area. I wasn't even looking for the Perseids yet!
I have most of the showers marked on my calendar for the season to make good camping trips, or just good nights out. The Delta Aquarids, Perseids,
Orionids, Leonids, etc.
I'm looking forward to tonight (13th), even thought it was supposed to be the brightest and most per hour last night (12th). Last night, where I
live, there was a slight cloud cover most of the night. One did peak through early though!
I stayed up and watered the lawn tween 2 & 3 am....but alas, as expected its much to bright in Salt lake city
But I was out there just in case, one that was bright enough might fly by......
I love the night sky.
I miss it.
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