Monday, August 13, 2007

Perseid meteor shower viewing and Jupiter

The last two nights were supposed to be good viewing for the Perseid meteor shower. The advice given by the magazines is to find a dark night sky with a view to the northeast for good viewing. I didn't feel like going to some Chester County field to battle insects all night so I improvised by sitting out on our cul-de-sac. Since there is only four houses on the street I thought I had a good chance not to be run over by cars, and the lack of trees growing out of the pavement at least meant that the sky directly above would be visible.

I actually went out on Saturday Night around 10pm or so and saw three really good meteors over the course of about an hour. One looked as long as twelve inches or so at arm's length. On Sunday night we say at least two good sightings over about an hour and maybe a few lighter ones that we couldn't decide were overactive imagination or not. Then the clouds rolled in and stopped the viewing. Though there are no street lights on the street, house path lighting and general light pollution from further away meant that only the brightest meteors were visible. I don't know about the 40 per hour the articles state. That must be if you are watching in the Arizona desert hundreds of miles from lights or civilization.

I learned that I can set as long as an 8 second exposure on my digital camera. Given the meteor rate described above, I would need minutes in order to catch a meteor, so no pictures of shooting stars. Instead, I turned around and looked south to get this picture of Jupiter and Antares. I assumed it was Venus at the time (What other bright object can you think of?), but the star charts set me straight. This was with an 8 second exposure on my Kodak camera, which is actually unsuitable to the task.

The shower continues through the end of the month, but lessens each evening, so you still haven't missed your chance. Did any of you stay out to try to catch a glimpse of a meteor this weekend?

1 comment:

Howard said...

I looked Sat at about 2am but didn't see much. I went out last night at 12:30 for a half hour and saw 3 maybe's and one good one out of the corner of my eye before clouds came through. I'll try again tonight.

Stellarium is a great free planetarium program that runs on all three platforms to help you find Perseus.