You might have to leave the city to enjoy the Perseid meteor shower, but it’s worth it. Tonight, 8/11/13, and dawn on 8/12/13, is the peak. You can go alone, with a sweetie, or with friends. You’ll need to get to a dark sky site, or, if you stay in the city, get away from the street lights. You don’t have to look up at a particular part of the sky, just look up. This shower is visible around the world.
My partner Joe and I joined up with members of the San Francisco Amateur Astronomers at Mt Tam for an astronomy-packed night. It started off with a great lecture on The Lives of Stars by Ken Croswell, who reminded us that the Sun is not an average star, in part because it is about 85% brighter than other stars in the Milky Way. Then my buddy, The Urban Astronomer, gave us a sky tour pointing out the Summer Triangle and other favorites.
A thoughtful member of the astro club brought sleeping bags to lay on, so 8 of us squished in next to each other to stay warm and watch the sky for meteors. Forty-five minutes passed before I saw a meteor, but my patience paid off and by the end of the night I’d seen about seven meteors. Not a lot, but the thrill of seeing a few was enough.
I might wake up at 4:00 am tomorrow morning to head out to the beach to try to spot Perseids. It could be a little difficult to convince Joe to go with me, but I’ll offer him a breakfast of huevos con tortillas y fruta as an incentive. What a great way to start the week - Perseids and Mexican food!
The 2013 Perseid meteor shower peaks on August 11-12, with the best viewing before dawn.
Here are a few options for you and some fun ideas.
1. Find a star party. When you’re observing with an astronomy club it’s fun and helpful. Take guacamole and chips to the party. You’ll make friends quickly. Most astronomy clubs will not hold events till dawn, but you’ll probably spot some meteors during the late night hours. Go to http://nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov/
2. Can’t see the Perseids due to bad weather? Stay up all night on 8/10/13 w @NASA online viewing http://ow.ly/20UWSI. Coordinate viewing w several friends, who may or may not be in the same city or country.
3. Observe solo or with friends or family. Find a dark place away from lights. Allow 30 minutes for your eyes to adapt to the dark.
4. Invite your sweetie - meteor watching can be a romantic date. Have wine, tea, or a toddy if it’s chilly, like it can get at some remote sites.
Don’t forget to take a camping mat or a thick blanket so you can lie down. This is definitely the most enjoyable. If you crank your neck up, that will start to get painful, very fast!