Stay Up Late or Get Up Early for Spectacular Perseid Meteor Show
August means so many things that involve evolving back into our fall and eventually winter routines. Back to School Sales signs are everywhere, football is gearing up and high school marching bands can be heard practicing through the trees in the afternoons.
The month is also regarded by stargazers as meteor month because of the Perseids, one of the biggest and probably the most famous of all clusters that the earth passes through each year.
Just as you get a little wet when walking past a sprinkler, we're reminded at this time of the year that we're on a huge rock circling a star and we're passing through a meteor sprinkler.
The best viewing of course is in the darkest place you can safely be without streetlights, porch or other artificial lighting. Personally I liked to drive to the beach or even the lake and lay out on lawn chairs or a quilt in the back of the truck. An ice chest and snacks complete the experience. The kids will love looking through binoculars even though the showers are clearly and easily visible to the naked eye.
The Moonbeams Might Be in The Way
If you've looked up the past few nights and noticed the waxing moon (it'll be full Thursday the 15th) and will flood the night skies with reflected sunlight. That means getting away from city light is even more critical if you can.
We've almost all of us seen a shooting star here and there, they go by so quickly by the time you go to tell companion to look it's long gone. But with the Perseids you can expect anywhere from fifty to one-hundred meteors per hour. My utility provider (no names here) has failed for months to replace the backyard pole light, so I'll be setting my camera up on a tripod and holding the shutter open in hopes of some dramatic shots.
Best Viewing Times the Next Few Days
Once the sun has set and it's fully dark you'll be able to look up and see meteors. However at our latitude, about thirty-degrees north there will be a short window after the moon sets and before the sun rises that is absolutely prime viewing and photo time. Astronomers call this period Dark Sky as it's simply the darkest it will be that night.
Dark Sky periods for our region the next few days are between 4:35 - 4:59 am, twenty-four minutes. The peak of the peak viewing will be prior to dawn on the 13th.
Have a family fun time with one of the greatest annual fireworks shows on earth.