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Meteor Rains Today: Perseids Meteor Shower August 12

Written By David D'Angelo on Wednesday, August 12, 2009 | 8/12/2009

August 12 will be the peak of the Perseids meteor shower which happens every August. Tonight will be a night in which one will remember as faint strikes of light rain across the sky putting into reality the song Meteor Rain. Since July, Earth is entering a stream of dusty debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle, the source of the annual Perseid meteor shower.

It’s not precise, but the 2009 peak is expected on August 12th at around 15.00 hours UT. There is some uncertainty, so it’s very worthwhile to observe either side of this.

So what to do and what to expect? Read on...

For sky watchers in North America, the watch begins after nightfall on August 11th and continues until sunrise on the 12th. Veteran observers suggest the following strategy: Unfold a blanket on a flat patch of ground. (Note: The middle of your street is not a good choice.) Lie down and look up. Perseids can appear in any part of the sky, their tails all pointing back to the shower's radiant in the constellation Perseus. Get away from city lights if you can.

There is one light you cannot escape on August 12th. The 55% gibbous Moon will glare down from the constellation Aries just next door to the shower's radiant in Perseus. The Moon is beautiful, but don't stare at it. Bright moonlight ruins night vision and it will wipe out any faint Perseids in that part of the sky

In particular for European observers, the hours of darkness either side the peak hours, may well prove more fruitful! So try the previous Tuesday night, as well as the night of Wednesday 12th.

And there is also a potentially prominent Moon to contend with. It will not set below the horizon until the early hours of the morning.

What equipment do you need to observe the meteor shower?

The good news is none! Just use your eyes.

It will help your observation if you give your eyes some time (say 15 minutes), to become adapted to the darkness.

Binoculars my also help, but on the other hand, they may restrict your view to a small part of the sky.

The meteors originate in the region of Perseus, but they may appear in view just about anywhere in the sky. Although, if you were to track-back their trails, you would get to Perseus.

References: International Year Of Astronomy 2009


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