24 August 2016

Enjoying the Light Show of the Perseids Meteor Shower

James E. Ducey. August 17, 2016. Look up! Enjoy the light show of the Perseids meteor shower. Valentine Midland News 43(7): 12.

There was fine viewing to enjoy the peak date for the Perseids meteor shower at Valentine.

An initial period of watching on August 12th occurred from 4:15 to 4:45 a.m., away from the city lights. There was a clear sky with a slight wind keeping away any pesky mosquitoes. During this half hour, more than 20 meteors in both short and long "lines" of light were seen, mostly in the northern portion of the sky.

The meteors - cosmic pieces from the Swift-Tuttle comet entering earth's atmosphere - moved from east to west and were part of an annual August event.

It was a grand night scene. Crickets provided a constant natural music. An eastern screech owl added its call from a nearby copse for a few minutes. In the distance were faint howls of a coyote.

Occasionally there was a passing satellite with its dot of light moving steadily from horizon to horizon, or the flash and colors of an airplane’s transit against the backdrop of constellations and the spiral of the vast Milky Way.

During the p.m., the first meteor was noted as a long streak just at 10 p.m. on the north horizon beneath the seven stars of the Big Dipper constellation.

A next meteors at 11:40 was one that streaked past the north star Polaris and that end of the Little Dipper. Another long track streak at 11:50 across the upper dome of the sky was vivid and enough to elicit a self-expressed Wow!

The gibbous moon above the western horizon did not add any significant light to the night setting that might detract from observational opportunities.

The last two views for this period of skywatching were at 12:10 a.m. when another long-track meteor split the dark just above the Little Dipper. Almost immediately the demise of another bit of cosmic rock occurred just to the westward.

Dark skies and the opportunity to appreciate the star-scape with its subtle constellations, make the Heart City a great place to observe stellar features. This year, the Perseid meteor shower will continue through August 24th.

Between midnight and 1 a.m. on August 24th, three meteors were seen. One at midnight at the west end of the Big Dipper, and two near the North Star and Little Dipper just before 12:30 a.m.