Great naked eye astronomy happening this week

Aug 10

Written by:
8/10/2014 7:12 PM  RssIcon

Perseid meteor flashes across skyFirst, there's the always-pleasing Perseids. Bright, not too fast, and the often offer up some nice "grazers" that make long trails across the sky. Add to that the usually warm weather conditions, and this perennial meteor shower has the makings of the perfect "all family" astronomy event. And more and more families are doing just that too - after all, there's no special equipment required, no specialized viewing technique (who needs averted vision to see meteors?). Pull out some comfortable chairs, go out fairly late - ideally after midnight - and look up. 

Yes, it's that easy. 

Sure, the Moon gets in the way this year, as it does about every three years for the Perseids. But that's okay - face roughly northwest/overhead in your chair, and position yourself so that direct moonlight isn't shining in your eye. Though the reflected sunlight off the lunar surface will also brighten the night sky, blocking the fainter Perseids, there's always a number of dazzlingly-bright ones to "Wow" most any crowd of observers. 

Just employ those "Meteor observing techniques" and the whole family will enjoy at least a few of these bits of dust and gravel orbiting in the plane from comet Swift Tuttle as they burn up in our atmosphere while Earth crosses it. Again, after midnight is best, as it allows for Earth - that is, your location - to "turn into" that stream of particles. But if the peak arriving on Tuesday into Wednesday means work will require you to turn into bed early instead, no worries - catch a few after sunset until you do need to catch some shut eye. And with most kids not in school yet, they'll likely appreciate the chance to stay up late too. Check out this chart, which shows that even if you've got cloudy skies for the peak, there will still be plenty of meteors to see a day or two before and after August 12/13.

Perseid meteor activity

Look for the Perseids this week, and check out the video below for more information on what can be seen coming up the sky. With a conjunction of Jupiter and Venus in the morning, another conjunction of Saturn and Mars in the evening, that would normally be enough to suffice for a busy astronomy week. But Vesta and Ceres aren't far off from the west of Mars and Saturn, so check them out too. 

There's a lot more here on Eyes on the Sky. For example, every week on the homepage there is a new astronomy video about observing objects in the night sky. They're only 5 minutes long - why not check out the latest one right now?

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The Nightlight

This blog includes what to see in the night and daytime skies, thoughts on telescopes, binoculars, and other astronomy observing accessories and equipment, plus my own occasional notes on objects I've seen and observed. Oh, and the random theater or other "my take on life" post. In other words, there is always something interesting. Check it out.