Stop what you are doing immediately. If you are indoors, on a computer just take a break and go outside, if you are on a mobile device enjoying the great outdoors simply look up. What do you see? Pristine sky, a gorgeous sunset, a mysteriously shaped cloud that looks vaguely similar to the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man (of Ghostbusters fame)? We digress—often, we take the awe-inspiring vastness of our sky and space for granted. In the grand scheme of things we are pretty small, so it’s easy to not think about the limitlessness of space and just how special our Solar System is.
From a giant amber Harvest Moon to Halley’s Comet, our night sky holds dozens of beautiful displays of science and physics. One of the things most commonly appreciated by the public are meteor showers, so we asked Joe, Astronomy Department member, resident astrophysicist, and (now) guest blogger, to give us some tips and tricks on which meteor showers are best and how we can see them with the naked eye.
Click below to read Joe’s Guest Blog.
Who doesn’t like to make a wish on a shooting star? Knowing that the flash of light is a grain of comet dust burning up from friction as it zips through Earth’s upper atmosphere at 130,000 miles per hour only adds to the wonder of the spectacle. In a meteor shower, you can see dozens of meteors per hour instead of a handful on other nights of the year.
Tip #1: The Best and the Brightest
One of the best meteors, the Perseids, peaks each year on the night of August 12-13. While anyone has an above-average chance to accidentally see a meteor that night, if you want to try to see as many meteors as possible there are two things you really ought to do:
Tip #2: Get away from city lights.
Tip #3: Go out in the pre-dawn hours. You may see this shower described as “80-100 per hour,” but this figure is for pristine skies with no light pollution whatsoever; such skies don’t exist in Ohio. There are plenty of dark-enough places though outside the metropolitan areas where it will be well worth your time to drive out to them. The 80-100 figure also incorporates seeing the meteor shower right before dawn; twilight begins at 4:00 AM on the morning of August 13. So your best bet for seeing the Perseids is to drive out of town and look from 3-4 AM. You will likely see a meteor every other minute or so—and some of them will be quite bright! That will maximize the number of meteors you see. Here are a few more tips to make your trip more enjoyable:
Tip #4: Even though it’s August, you can get quite chilly if you lie directly on the ground, so sit in a bean bag or patio chair.
Tip #5: Meteor watching is definitely more fun with a group of friends than by yourself—make a competition to see who can spot the most!
Tip #6: And while you’ll see meteors any direction you look, northwest and southeast are probably best.
Here’s wishing you good luck and clear skies for your meteor watching adventure!
Mark your calendar for the rest of 2015’s meteor showers:
Active from July 13 to August 26, Peak Night: August 12-13
Active from October 4 – November 14, Peak Night: October 21 – 22
Active from September 7 – November 19, Peak Night: October 23-24
Active from October 19 to December 10, Peak Night: November 11-12
Active from Nomber 5 – 30, Peak Night: November 17-18
Active from December 4 to 16, Peak night: Dec 13 – 14
Active from December 17 to 23, Peak night: Dec 21-22
To learn more about Astronomy at the Boonshoft Museum click here.