mont blanc range Missed the Perseids Meteor Shower

montblanc limited edition pens prices Missed the Perseids Meteor Shower

The Milky Way is seen during the Perseid shower above the Los Padres National Forest in Frazier Park, California, August 12, 2009. FRAZIER PARK/Reuters

A Perseid meteor (top) and the trail of an jet airplane converge over the cliff walls of Red Rock Canyon outside of Las Vegas, Nevada August 11, 2009. The annual show of Perseid meteor shower is caused from bits of debris from Comet Swift Tuttle. David Becker/REUTERS

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Meteors from the Perseid shower streak past stars above the Los Padres National Forest in Frazier Park, California August 12, 2009. The Perseid meteor shower is sparked every August when the Earth passes through a stream of space debris left by Comet Swift Tuttle. Perseid meteors are bright, and often leave luminous trails of gas. Mario Anzuoni/REUTERS

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A meteor from the Perseid shower (L) streaks past stars in the Los Padres National Forest in Frazier Park, California August 12, 2009. The Perseid meteor shower is sparked every August when the Earth passes through a stream of space debris left by Comet Swift Tuttle. Perseid meteors are bright, and often leave luminous trails of gas. Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

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A meteor streaks past stars in the night sky at the Mont Tendre near Montricher in the Jura, north of Geneva, late August 12, 2009. The Perseid meteor shower is sparked every August when the Earth passes through a stream of space debris left by Comet Swift Tuttle. This picture was taken using a long exposure and a fisheye lens. Denis Balibouse/Reuters

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A meteor streaks past stars in the night sky over Stonehenge in Salisbury Plain, southern England August 12, 2010. The Perseid meteor shower is sparked every August when the Earth passes through a stream of space debris left by comet Swift Tuttle. Picture taken using a long exposure. Kieran Doherty/REUTERS

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A meteor (top, R) streaks past stars in the night sky above Lake Geneva and the Mont Blancl, at the Mont Tendre near Montricher in the Jura, north of Geneva, early August 11, 2012. The Perseid meteor shower is sparked every August when the Earth passes through a stream of space debris left by Comet Swift Tuttle. Denis Balibouse/Reuters

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A meteor streaks past stars in the night sky at the Mont Tendre near Montricher in the Jura, north of Geneva, early August 11, 2012. The Perseid meteor shower is sparked every August when the Earth passes through a stream of space debris left by Comet Swift Tuttle. Denis Balibouse/REUTERS

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A meteor (top) streaks past stars in the night sky above Lake Geneva and the Mont Blanc, at the Mont Tendre near Montricher in the Jura, north of Geneva, late August 10, 2012. The Perseid meteor shower is sparked every August when the Earth passes through a stream of space debris left by Comet Swift Tuttle. The three lines on the bottom of the sky are aircrafts. Picture taken with a long exposure. Denis Balibouse/REUTERS

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A meteor (top, L) streaks past stars in the night sky above Lake Geneva and the Mont Blanc, at the Mont Tendre near Montricher in the Jura, north of Geneva, late August 10, 2012. The Perseid meteor shower is sparked every August when the Earth passes through a stream of space debris left by Comet Swift Tuttle. Picture taken with a long exposure. Denis Balibouse /REUTERS

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A meteor (top) streaks past stars in the night sky above Lake Geneva and the Mont Blanc, at the Mont Tendre near Montricher in the Jura, north of Geneva, late August 10, 2012. The Perseid meteor shower is sparked every August when the Earth passes through a stream of space debris left by Comet Swift Tuttle. The three lines on the bottom of the sky are aircrafts. Picture taken with a long exposure. Denis Balibouse /REUTERS

One of the best annual meteor showers is set to perform this weekend under optimal viewing conditions. The Perseid meteor showerpeaks on the morning of August 12th, although it will be worth starting to watch for meteors a few days prior. The Perseids are so named because they seem to radiate from the constellation Perseus, which is high to the northeast on August mornings for middle latitude observers in the northern hemisphere.

You can start watching for meteors at dusk, but you are much more likely to see them in the pre dawn hours. The reason for this is simple; an observer is facing forward into the Earth’s orbit past local midnight, as it scoops out a “13,000 kilometre hole” in its orbit moving at 29.8 kilometres a second. This effect is the same as a car moving down a highway in a snowstorm; the snowflakes seem to come from one vantage point (known as the meteor showers’ radiant) straight ahead.

64 annual meteor showers are currently recognized by the International Astronomical Union, but most are so week that you’d barely notice them. The Perseids are a dependable performer, generating 90 100 meteors per hour at their peak. This year that peak is set to occur a bit early due to 2012 being a leap year, arriving on August 12th at 13:19 Universal Time or 11:19 Eastern Daylight Savings Time. This would favor Hawaii and the western Pacific, but of course the peak of the shower could arrive early or late. For example, enhanced rates of 200 per hour were seen in the 1990’s, and the shower can display multiple peaks. This year, the Moon is also at a 23% illuminated crescent phase rising around 2AM local, and thus should only hamper seeing the faintest of meteors.

Composite of the 2011 Perseids taken with an All Sky Camera based at Huntsville, Alabama. (Credit: NASA/Marshall Spaceflight Center)

What are the Perseids? They are tiny dust grains dispersed by comet 109/P Swift Tuttle along its orbit. Meteor shower streams evolve over time, and the Perseids are one of the consistently richest showers of the current epoch. Some showers, such as the November Leonids, generate a paltry 10 per hour but are prone to great +1,000 per hour outbursts every 33 years, as happened in 1998 99 and may occur again in 2032 33. What you are actually seeing when you see a Perseid meteor is not the particle itself, but a glowing trail of incandescent gas left in its wake. “Pings” for meteors can even be heard along the FM dial, and it’s a matter of debate as to whether observers can actually “hear” meteors via a phenomenon known as electrophonic sound.

The great thing is, you don’t need any specialized equipment to watch a meteor shower; just a lawn chair and patience. Keep in mind, the “90 100” per hour number is a theoretical optimal rate, known in astronomy as the shower’s “zenithal hourly rate”. You can optimize your chances of seeing the Perseids by watching in the AM hours getting away from city lights to a location with a clear horizon. Perseids can occur anywhere in the sky, and if you have multiple observers, it’s fun to face in opposite directions and count how many you see.

Photographing the Perseids can also be a pretty straight forward affair with a modern DSLR camera; just set the camera on a tripod and take several time exposures at the widest field of view setting. With digital photography, it’s simple to take a series of test shots to get the focus, f/ratio, shutter speed, and ISO just right for your local sky conditions. Just remember to have an extra set of fresh charged batteries on hand! Also, be sure to carefully review the images on a large screen afterward; Perseids may show up photographically that weren’t apparent visually.
mont blanc range Missed the Perseids Meteor Shower