Posted by: Mario Carr | August 8, 2010

Don’t miss August’s Perseids meteor shower

Star gazers around the world have been looking forward to August for one of the most spectacular meteor showers of the year — the Perseids meteor shower.

You can see the meteor shower July 23 – Aug. 22, and during its peak Aug. 12-13 expect more than 60 meteors per hour.

The Hamilton Amateur Astronomers will have a public observing night on Wed. Aug. 11 at the Binbrook Conservation Area 8-10 p.m.  The park’s entrance is on Harrsion Road in Binbrook.  Proceed south on Hwy 56, turn right onto Kirk Rd. and left onto Harrison Rd.  Weather and clouds permitting.  No rain date will be scheduled.

Bring a blanket or lounge chair because lying down is one of the better ways to see the meteor shower.  No need for telescopes or binoculars.  Your naked eyes are the best astronomical instruments to observe the Persieds.  A thin crescent moon should set by 9 p.m. giving way to nice dark skies.

If you haven’t seen it yet, then you are about to witness something spectacular.  The Perseids meteor shower is the best of the seven meteor showers in 2010 and will appear radiating from the constellation Perseus.

It is not actually coming from the constellation but is caused by debris coming from comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle entering and burning up in the atmosphere at a rate of 61 km/sec.

A shooting star or falling star is just another name for a meteor.  Every time I watch this meteor shower, I marvel at the power of our atmosphere, which sustains and protects us from falling debris.

The deep sky of summer is the richest of the year. The Milky Way rides high overhead, spanning from the constellation Sagittarius, though the Summer Triangle, to Cassiopeia and the trail of nebulae and clusters seems unending.

Some of my favourite summertime deep sky objects include the Lagoon and Triffid Nebulae in Sagittarius, which are clouds of interstellar gas.

Here are some dates to keep in mind for August stargazing.

August 3 — Last Quarter Moon

August 10 — New moon.  Moon is also at perigee or nearest to the Earth.

August 13 – Don’t miss the triple conjunction of the planets Venus, Mars, and Saturn with the thin crescent Moon in the western sky just after sunset.  No telescope required and it makes a great photo opportunity. All you need is a tripod with a 10 or 20 second exposure on your digital camera.  From this date, the planets will continue to sink towards the western sky.

August 16 — First Quarter Moon

August 20 Neptune is at opposition or opposite the sun and this is the best time to observe it.  Also, Mars and Venus are just two degrees apart.

August 24 — Full Moon

August 25 — Moon at apogee or farthest from Earth.


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