Blogging keeps me humble. I can write my heart out, and maybe not even get a single comment. I can write a two sentence entry on live Olympic coverage on July 31st, and get no response, and then ten days days later it is driving my stats to new heights – two record days in a row, all because people are looking for live Olympic coverage. No comments, or few. Total hoot.
This is a very good article I came across today on AOL News. If you click on the blue type you can read all the good parts I left out! :-)
Perseid Meteor Shower Peaks Tuesday
By Joe Rao, Space.com
(Aug. 8) – Every August, just when many people go vacationing in the country where skies are dark, the best-known meteor shower makes its appearance.
It is also the month of “The Tears of St. Lawrence,” more commonly known as the Perseid Meteor Shower.
(The squeamish might want to skip this paragraph)
Laurentius, a Christian deacon, is said to have been martyred by the Romans in 258 AD on an iron outdoor stove. It was in the midst of this torture that Laurentius cried out:
“I am already roasted on one side and, if thou wouldst have me well cooked, it is time to turn me on the other.”
The saint’s death was commemorated on his feast day, Aug. 10. King Phillip II of Spain built his monastery place, the “Escorial,” on the plan of the holy gridiron. And the abundance of shooting stars seen annually between approximately Aug. 8 and 14 have come to be known as St. Lawrence’s “fiery tears.”
In 2008, the Perseids are expected to reach their maximum on Aug. 12.
The exact time of maximum should be about 7:00 a.m. EDT (1100 GMT) Aug. 12, according to Margaret Campbell-Brown and Peter Brown in the 2008 Observer’s Handbook of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. If so, the timing is very good for meteor watchers observing before dawn in North America, especially in the western states. And that morning, the waxing gibbous moon sets around 1:30 a.m. local daylight saving time, leaving a dark sky for the next 3 hours.
Take full advantage of that moonless period. Next year, a last quarter moon will illuminate the after-midnight sky with its light and will hinder observation of the Perseids.
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When and where to look
Typically during an overnight watch, the Perseids are capable of producing a number of bright, flaring and fragmenting meteors, which leave fine trains in their wake.
On the night of shower maximum, the Perseid radiant is not far from the famous “Double Star Cluster” of Perseus. Low in the northeast during the early evening, it rises higher in the sky until morning twilight ends observing. Shower members appearing close to the radiant have foreshortened tracks; those appearing farther away are often brighter, have longer tracks, and move faster across the sky. About five to 10 of the meteors seen in any given hour will not fit this geometric pattern, and may be classified as sporadic or as members of some other (minor) shower.
Watching for the Perseids consists of lying back, gazing up into the stars and waiting. Perseid activity increases sharply in the hours after midnight, so plan your observing times accordingly. We are then looking more nearly face-on into the direction of the Earth’s motion as it orbits the Sun, and the radiant is also higher up. Making a meteor count is as simple as lying in a lawn chair or on the ground and marking on a clipboard whenever a “shooting star” is seen.
Counts should be made on several nights before and after the predicted maximum, so the behavior of the shower away from its peak can be determined. Usually, good numbers of meteors should be seen on the preceding and following nights as well. The shower is generally at one-quarter strength one or two nights before and after maximum.
A few Perseids can be seen as much as two weeks before and a week after the peak. The extreme limits, in fact, are said to extend from July 17 to Aug. 24, though an occasional one might be seen almost anytime during the month of August.
Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York’s Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for The New York Times and other publications, and he is also an on-camera meteorologist for News 12 Westchester, New York.