How to… Ob­serve the per­seid shower

With no Moon to spoil the view, this year’s show could be one of the best in years - make sure you're pre­pared enough to catch it

All About Space - - Contents -

Be in the right place at the right time on 13 Au­gust

Ev­ery mid-Au­gust sky-watch­ers flock to the coun­try­side to watch shoot­ing stars zip across the sky dur­ing the an­nual Per­seid me­teor shower. It’s one of the most re­li­able me­teor show­ers, and un­like in 2017 this year there will be no bright Moon to spoil things, so we should be in for a real treat. Here’s how to make the most of this pop­u­lar event.

This year’s shower peaks on the night of 12 to 13 Au­gust, but you’ll see more me­te­ors than usual for a few nights ei­ther side of that date.

Au­gust nights can be mild, but you will get cold as the tem­per­a­ture drops so dress as if it’s win­ter not sum­mer. You should also take a flask of a hot drink with you to warm you up, and some snack­ing food for when your eyes start droop­ing and you need an en­ergy boost.

Choos­ing a good ob­serv­ing site is ab­so­lutely vi­tal. Find some­where as far away from light pol­lu­tion and traf­fic as pos­si­ble. There should also be no trees, build­ings or hills around it to ob­struct your view of the sky ei­ther – you want to see as much of the sky as you can so no me­te­ors drop out of your view.

Start watch­ing from around 11:30pm and stay out as long as you can. Lie back com­fort­ably in a re­clin­ing chair so you’re not strain­ing your neck. When you start to feel tired get up and have a walk around. Clap your hands to­gether, have a drink from your flask and a bite to eat. You’ll be re­freshed af­ter­wards and ready to watch more me­te­ors.

Don’t look straight at the con­stel­la­tion of Perseus. If you look off to the side, or even over­head, you’ll see more me­te­ors than you will look­ing di­rectly at the ‘ra­di­ant’.

You can watch the Per­seids on your own but it can feel very lonely at 3:00am, and once you start to feel cold and tired you will be tempted to go home early. This is a mis­take be­cause most me­teor show­ers peak in the small hours be­fore dawn. If you go with friends it will be more fun and you can keep each other awake! Be­ing more prac­ti­cal, by fac­ing dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions you’ll see more me­te­ors as a group than one per­son would on their own.

It’s fun to try and cap­ture some me­te­ors with a DSLR cam­era on a tri­pod, tak­ing long ex­po­sures, but be pre­pared to fail to­tally: the chances of one flash­ing across the sky ex­actly where your cam­era is point­ing are very slim!

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