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August 11, 2009 12:30 AM   Subscribe

As Earth continues its pass through the debris field left by periodic Comet Swift-Tuttle on August 11 and 12, the annual Perseid Meteor Shower could deliver a double peak and a brief period of up to 200 meteors per hour.

Even though a 66% gibbous moon promises to obscure many of the faint meteors, dozens could still be visible, including the always spectacular "earthgrazers". Viewing tips abound, but basically find a dark spot (preferably away from the city), lay on the ground and stare at the sky between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. local time. The radiant, or where the meteors appear to originate from geek-speak style, is found near the constellation Perseus in the northeast sky. The 2009 Perseids have actually already started, but special attention is to be paid around 0800 UDT (1 am PDT) when Earth will pass through a more dense than usual area of the debris field left by Swift-Tuttle. Spaceweather.com already has some '09 photos compiled. Last year, amateur astronomers observed Perseids striking the Moon. What will this year bring? It probably won't be what it's like when worlds collide but it promises to be quite impressive, even with the Moon trying to spoil the show. (Prev-iou-sly on Me-Fi)
posted by IvoShandor (35 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Of course, I wrote this up and then poked around Phil Plait's site a bit and found some other relevant stuff. So here it is in comment: Phil's viewing tips (they still apply this year), Phil's post on this years shower, and the Twitter Meteorwatch. Phil's great, guess I should have mined him first. Enjoy the show!
posted by IvoShandor at 12:50 AM on August 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Perseid? Double peak? Meteor Shower? ... Reminds me I need a shower and will celebrate the event with a double peak shower...
posted by vvurdsmyth at 1:07 AM on August 11, 2009


awww I am so sad. I had plans to drive out to the middle of nowhere for this, until I realized I'm stuck indoors at work both nights.
posted by little e at 1:27 AM on August 11, 2009


Right. I'm glad someone posted this, because I've been thisclose to trying to post this to Askme -- because the Perseids have been frustrating me for two days.

I am trying to figure out when to rent a Zipcar for a couple hours and drive out to a state park so I can watch these things (by some fluke, I have today and tomorrow off work, so I can get up early or stay up late with no ill effects). I just can't figure out when. Firstly, I'm in New York. When IS 1 am PDT? Secondly, there is a series of showers forecast for between 1 am and 3 am Eastern Time. It looks to be clear 11 am through 1 am, and then 4 am through 6 am.

So -- should I stay up late and drive out tonight and stay out until 1 am, or should I get up early and drive out for 4 am and stay until dawn?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:38 AM on August 11, 2009


Thank you for the reminder. I got excited and went outside, since I was up late anyway. Then, I remembered that we had thunderstorms here earlier. Unfortunately, it's still very cloudy.

"Grar," I muttered quietly, so as to not disturb the neighbors.

Maybe tomorrow.
posted by lilywing13 at 1:43 AM on August 11, 2009


When IS 1 am PDT?

0800 UDT, 3 am CDT, 4 am EDT, etc.

So -- should I stay up late and drive out tonight and stay out until 1 am, or should I get up early and drive out for 4 am and stay until dawn?

You'll probably see some at both times. I'm goin' for the stay up late alternative myself in hopes of catching some bright earthgrazers early on, and keeping my fingers crossed for the possible 200 per hour moment, but the actual observable numbers will probably be far less than that.
posted by IvoShandor at 1:46 AM on August 11, 2009


Seeing as I woke up at 4 am EDT tonight ANYWAY, and have been doing so for the past couple days, that may be the best option for me at that. Thanks, Ivo.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:49 AM on August 11, 2009


Your 4 am EDT option probably puts you closer to the peak time, depending on who you listen to for that info. I've been seeing them for the past couple weeks intermittently. But I work at night and stare at the sky a lot. No problem empress.
posted by IvoShandor at 1:57 AM on August 11, 2009


...and stare at the sky between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. local time

For those of us in the higher latitudes of the southern hemisphere ...

The radiant is always low or below the horizon for Southern Hemisphere countries like Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, where few, if any, Perseids can be seen.

... don't want to be a spoil sport but then again it's cold this time of year to be out at night staring at a meteorless sky !
posted by southof40 at 2:52 AM on August 11, 2009


Oh a meteors. Just what I need today after earthquakes, tsunami and typhoons.

WHAT ARE YOU TRYING to TELL ME UNIVERSE????
posted by gomichild at 3:03 AM on August 11, 2009


My girlfriend has never seen a "shooting star" and doesn't get it. Twice I've taken her away from light pollution for seasonal showers - once during a thunderstorm, with me playing opposite-stormchaser, driving into it, hoping to break through to a clear sky (fail), and the other time with just plain bad luck, with clouds, and me going "there!" - "where?" - "ooh, there!" - "what?" - "omg there!" - "huh?"... In her defense, her eyesight isn't the best, but damn. It's become a mission.
Meanwhile, I'm forever changed by the Leonid shower I saw in the countryside in 97, where I had to hold onto the grass out of terror/glee from all the colorful explosions.
I will try again; I hope this year fares better. But damn you, moon!
posted by hypersloth at 3:57 AM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]




Oh a meteors. Just what I need today after earthquakes, tsunami and typhoons.

WHAT ARE YOU TRYING to TELL ME UNIVERSE????


Add a night of strange, disturbing dreams to that list! If at this point the universe doesn't throw me a demi-god or aliens or some superpowers I am going to be seriously let down.
posted by The Whelk at 4:05 AM on August 11, 2009


Did you know Space.com was founded by Lou Dobbs? It's True! I guess there aren't many Mexicans out there for him to worry about.
posted by delmoi at 4:21 AM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've never been jealous of a hemisphere before.
posted by Ritchie at 5:05 AM on August 11, 2009


THE SKY IS FALLING!!
posted by Pollomacho at 5:13 AM on August 11, 2009


IvoShandor: "As Earth continues its pass through the debris field left by periodic Comet Swift-Tuttle on August 11 and 12"

Dangling modifier alert! Earth is passing through the debris field on August 11 and 12, but the field itself is at least 16 years old. Swift-Tuttle is a long-period comet (257.72 years). Its last pass was in 1992, and it'll be back in 2126. Mark your calendars!
posted by Plutor at 5:21 AM on August 11, 2009


Did you know Space.com was founded by Lou Dobbs? It's True! I guess there aren't many Mexicans out there for him to worry about.

The illegals from the third moon of Saturn are taking all our asteroid mining jobs.
posted by Spatch at 5:41 AM on August 11, 2009


This of course explains why the sky has become cloudy in Tucson. Never fails when the Perseids come along. We did, however, see one spectacular meteor the other night.
posted by azpenguin at 6:49 AM on August 11, 2009


Oh, great. This going to be a Thundarr The Barbarian thing, isn't it?
posted by sourwookie at 7:08 AM on August 11, 2009


Don't forget that even if it's cloudy, you can observe the Perseids using a shortwave/AM radio, or even an old TV. You may hear snippets from distant stations as the radio waves reflect off the transient trails made in the ionosphere.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:10 AM on August 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


We did, however, see one spectacular meteor the other night.

Friend from Texas, said he was troubled by a dream last night of his childhood house burning down.

I had a nightmare that woke me up just as he said he fell asleep. My nightmare featured "Brain Damage" from Dark Side Of the Moon.

All this and a comet? We are so fucking boned.
posted by The Whelk at 7:21 AM on August 11, 2009


I remember seeing a "grazer" during the Leonid shower in 1999 (this one). I was in the car with my mother at the time, en route to my piano lesson, and we (both big sci-fi fans) were absolutely convinced we'd just seen a UFO. A little disappointing when we found out it wasn't.

The Perseids were the first meteors I ever saw, laying in the back yard of my great-grandmother's house in Pittsburgh as a kid. I caught one just as I sneezed and almost wasn't sure I'd actually seen it. Can't wait to watch them this week... I hope it clears up a bit on the East Coast.

I will be on the Cape this weekend when it is supposed to be clear and I'll have almost no light pollution. Think it'll still be any good then?
posted by olinerd at 7:43 AM on August 11, 2009


Best. Birthday. Present. Ever.
posted by bunnycup at 9:13 AM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not only is radio astronomy possible, but since its first discovery in 1921, radio operators have taken advantage of the long distance communications made possible by bouncing radio waves off the ionized particles left in the atmosphere when the meteors burn up.

Early military communications networks made use of meteor burst communications in the era before satellites, and today the technology is still in use for remote sensor networks, amateur radio 'contesting' and military applications.
posted by acro at 9:20 AM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


A little unsolicited advice: any Mefites out there who've pined for a particular someone, but are too shy/scared to actually ask them out? Now is the chance you cannot miss! There is no such thing as a surefire first date, but a meteor shower is pretty close. It's simple and affordable: a blanket to lie on, gas to drive out of town, and a doobie and bottle of cheap wine (optional). And if you are the type that finds that first date conversation daunting, don't worry: if the two of you aren't inspired by the show to forge an intimate connection, then sit in mutual, awed silence. I did this once many years ago and though the relationship did not burn any longer than the average meteor, the brief trail it left in my sky is a fond memory.

(And about that pesky moon. The answer is clear. . . (YT!))
posted by barrett caulk at 10:17 AM on August 11, 2009


If you have a few minutes to figure it out, this site can give you an idea of what your visibility will be like. Unfortunately my favored spot in northwest New Jersey will suffer from heavy cloud cover on Tuesday night / Wednesday morning.
posted by exhilaration at 11:02 AM on August 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the reminder on this. I already saw one shooting star last weekend and this sounds to be fantastic where I'm at...
posted by Skygazer at 12:37 PM on August 11, 2009


It probably won't be what it's like when worlds collide but it promises to be quite impressive,

Are you ready to go
Cause I'm ready to go
What you gonna do baby baby
Are you going with me
Cause I'm going with you
It's the end of all time


The wife just sent me something about this, so I'm going to be slathering on the bug spray tonight, because I got eaten alive a couple of years ago trying to watch one of the showers.

I'm desperately hoping to see that one thing that is somewhat rare even by the standards of a rare event: one of the meteors breaking up as it crosses the sky. Particularly if it causes it to change color and *fingers crossed* is audible. That is like the holy trifecta when it comes to cool sightings.
posted by quin at 2:08 PM on August 11, 2009


"For those of you who prefer not to stay up late? Try getting up early instead!"
posted by mrgrimm at 5:49 PM on August 11, 2009


Good luck seeing anything what with all the light pollution.


Y'know, the lights-out campaign really screwed the pooch by not deciding to hold the event during a meteor shower. They'd have won a zillion rabid converts, once people saw stars falling from the sky. Because it is, y'know, about the most awesome thing ever.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:21 PM on August 11, 2009


I just saw three, one every 5 minutes or so. Had to come in and thank you for posting this. Seeing them has done wonders for my morale. The last one was a really long streak too.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 10:03 PM on August 11, 2009


Sadly Rhode Island was overcast. Anyone but cybercoitus interruptus see anything good?
posted by Kattullus at 6:00 AM on August 12, 2009


My attempts to drive out to see the shower at a Long Island beach were thwarted by some mechanical idiocy on the part of my rental car, which it ultimately took two state troopers, a homeowner from Mineola, and a tow truck to resolve. I didn't make it out to Long Island until dawn, I'm only just now making back to Brooklyn at 11 am, and I'm going to go to sleep now.

I'll try again next year -- and make someone else drive.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:56 AM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Went to Rattlesnake Lake by Snoqualmie Falls yesterday (site endorsed by the Seattle Astronomical Society). Saw nothing. Not one damn meteor it was so cloudy. Gonna try again tonight!
posted by vito90 at 10:57 AM on August 12, 2009


I saw five or six tonight, two of which were super awesome, but clouds blew in within ten minutes of my arrival at a moderately dark place where I thought I could get away with trespassing. Then I drove way the hell out in the direction of the Shenandoah Valley where it was clear and even darker, only to discover that the other place I thought would make a nice vantage point was rather ominous and creepy to be lurking around alone at 3 am, and then I got lost trying to go to yet a third place and gave up and came home. But now that I remember what stars look like I really want to go back out to the third place some night soon and just lay on the grass and look at the sky.
posted by little e at 4:54 AM on August 13, 2009


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