Sunday, August 9, 2009

August Perseids Meteor Showers

Here's an image taken in the 2007.
Credit Fred Bruenjes.
August the 12th.
The best meteor shower of the year is upon us. For those of you who may have missed out on last months show, you'd have no excuse to miss this. Meteor showers are basically graded in three categories (four, to be precise). Cat 1 is for most of us amateurs, that's when you may see over 60 meteors per hour. Then we have Cat 2. Here we go intermediate astronomers, with the possibility to see around 20 per hour. Cat 3 is for the professionals. These showers produce no more then 10 per hour, so patience is key. We actually have a Cat 4 and that is for those astronomers who use really amazing equipment to track day time meteor showers. The Delta Aquarids and Capricornids of last month are what you'd call a Cat 2. Still I'd have to say that Ling and I did enjoy the both of them and we saw around 6 per hour. Sometimes she missed a few, sometimes I'd miss a few. Just as I take another sip of my beer, she goes ' There's another one!'. I go, 'Bloody Hell!'. Anyhoo, late Tuesday night, all through the dawn of Wednesday, and again Wednesday night after sunset, would be the best time to catch the Perseids shower. Although you'd still be able to catch it a few days before and a few days after. Remember, this is a Cat 1, so unless you've got a bad sky, you'd definitely be able to enjoy this show. You only need to find a place with as little light pollution as possible. I know that it is next to impossible here in Singapore but I'm sure you'd still make do. Once you've found a good spot, set up camp to lie down (that road in front of your house is not a good idea).
Here's basically where you'd need to look out to.
Astronomy: Roen Kelly
Bring with you someone you'd like to lie next to and a simple floor mat. Then give yourselves about 15 to 20 minutes to let your eyes get adjusted to the night. You do not need any binoculars or telescopes. You'd be better off without them. Oh and yes, bring along some refreshment and some insect repellent. Just in case. Now here's a little history about this particular shower. The ancient Chinese recorded them first some 2000 years ago around A.D.36. They are the debris left behind in the trail of Comet Swift-Tuttle which flies from deep space into the inner solar system every 130 years on its long, looping orbit around the sun, where it remains for several years. Every year in August, Earth passes through this trail of debris and they hit into Earth's upper atmosphere. Shock waves from their impact cause them to flare into brightness and they show as long streaks of light and sometimes as brilliant fireballs.Their meteor tails all seem to radiate from one point, known as the radiant, within the constellation Perseus - hence their name.
The comet was discovered by astronomers Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle in 1862.
Well there you have it. Don't miss this for you'd need to wait for a whole year to watch it again.
Besides, it's not often you get to see the stars raining down on Earth.

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