Perseids 2018 – A Good Year

   Before sunrise on Saturday August 11th, Sunday August 12th, and Monday August 13th look toward the east and southeast for ‘shooting stars’, or meteors. The short-lived streaks of light are radiating outward from the area of the constellation Perseus the Hero. These are the annual Perseids – one of the best meteor showers each year. And these three days are centered more or less on the peak.

   The Perseid Meteor Shower is named for the constellation from where the meteors radiate outward. This is the same for all meteor showers, and the ‘spot’ in the sky is known as the radiant. The Perseid radiant, as shown in the graphic, is within the Perseus constellation, and under ideal viewing conditions (dark and moonless skies) an average of about 60-80 meteors per hour could possibly be seen. This year without the interference of moonlight will increase the chances of seeing the meteors.

   The peak for this year’s Perseids is Monday September 13th at 1 UT (8 pm CDT) however Perseus and the radiant rise at around 11 pm local time. A couple of hours later should be high enough over the horizon to become visible. I always look for a triangle made from using the Pleiades open star cluster, the bright star Capella in the constellation Auriga, and a not as bright star, Mirfak in Perseus. The radiant is up to the left from Mirfak as the graphic shows.

   Best viewing times for seeing the Perseids are early morning a few hours before sunrise after Perseus has risen. This is an ideal time as the part of Earth you are viewing from is rotating toward the east, in the direction the Earth is revolving around the Sun. This means you will be seeing metaors ‘head-on’ as the enter the atmosphere.

    Meteor showers result from the Earth’s orbital path intersecting areas of comet debris. Comets, as they orbit the Sun, leave behind pieces of their icy, dirty, selves. If these debris clouds happen to be along the Earth’s orbital path then the Earth will regularly pass through the comet debris cloud. As this happens the small comet pieces hit our outer atmosphere and vaporize from the friction generated heat. We then see these as the shooting stars that make up meteor showers.


Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

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2017 Perseid Meteor Shower – Not A Good Year

   In reality this year’s annual Perseid Meteor shower will be affected by the Moon. The waning gibbous Moon will rise at about the same time as the constellation Perseus – the location for the meteors. With the bright reflected light from the Moon it will be nearly impossible to see any meteors.
   Also keep in mind that the numbers quoted for meteors per hour, the ‘ZHR’ or Zenith Hourly Rate, is an average not a guarantee that you will see that many. On a good peak night in some years I have seen 30 or 40 bright meteors per hour from dark skies. The best time is the few hours before sunrise as the Earth rotates your location into the direction the Earth is moving and sort of puts you face-on into the meteors.
(graphic source from Facebook with this URL: — link takes you to a non-existent web site, or to a Go-Daddy advertisement
Update: I did a search for the web site and found that the correct address is, and after searching the web site I could not find this graphic. There is, however a write-up from last year about the Perseids.

   The peak time for the Perseids is August 12th and 13th but more specifically during the predawn hours of the 13th as the constellation Perseus is rising.

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

Perseid Hydro-Meteor Shower

   I was in Tucson Arizona this past week and was hoping, while there, to be able to take advantage of the darker skies for some night photography including the Perseid Meteor Shower. However this time of year is the monsoon season for Arizona so the nights for the meteor shower were a mixture of clouds, fog, and drizzle. A hydro-meteor shower! So my photography attempts were limited to pictures of a rain and lightning storm over the Catalina Mountains from my brother’s house.
   The camera was set to take an exposure every second and out of more than 500 pictures I was able to get a few pictures of lightning.

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Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to go to bobs-spaces.

Perseids: The Peak Night

   This morning I was set up and the camera was clicking away by about 3 am CDT. Once again I had the camera set to Burst mode taking 10-second exposures with the ISO 1600; F 4.0. The skies were very clear and the humidity seemed lower than yesterday. I started with my 28mm wide-angle lens and then used the 18-55mm lens set at 18 mm with the same shutter settings. After about 30 minutes I added the wide-angle lens for about 25 minutes, and then the 18-55 mm lens for about 15-20 minutes. By then, around 5 am CDT dew had condensed on the lenses and me to the point where it was time to stop. Below are some highlights from this session.
   I saw a total of 4 meteors in a 2-hour time span, as well as 4 airplanes with their lights blinking and leaving long dash-like lines in several picture frames. What was enjoyable was watching the stars of the open star cluster the Pleiades coming into view over the tree tops. That cluster of stars is very obvious in the star trail pictures.


Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

One Perseid Down – Many to Go?

   Between 2 and 3 am CDT I took approximately 300 pictures of the sky around the constellation Perseus. During that time I set the camera on Burst mode with the shutter set to a 10 second exposure time at f4.0; ISO 1600, 18mm focal length, and captured what it was like watching the sky for about 25 minutes in a sequence of 152 pictures.
click on animated graphic to see it full size (1040x693)   These were then put into a short animated Gif so I could share the excitement of watching clouds drift across the sky! My viewing luck usually includes clouds as you can see. Toward the end a bright Perseid Meteor streaks above the treetops and at the very end of the sequence the stars start to fade out as dew collects on the camera lens.

  Using the Freeware StarTrails software I stacked the 152 pictures so they would show the effect of Earth rotation. The North Celestial Pole is toward the left side so the star trails are a bit more circular in shape then those toward the right side of the picture.

Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Triple Your Celestial Thrills

astronomical_sun   Today the Sun enters the boundary of the constellation of Leo the Lion.
   This evening the setting waxing crescent Moon will be near the blue-white star Spica in the constellation of Virgo the Harvest Maiden.
   The Perseid Meteor Shower, already in progress for the past week or so, will peak during the early morning hours of Monday 11 August. Click here to read more about viewing this annual event.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.

Watch on TV – NO!

So any rainfall we received in the last week should be credited to me. You know the old axiom, want rain – give an astronomer a new telescope or an observing project. Well I had a weeks worth of Asteroid Vesta viewing as it cruised through the stars of the Hyades that was a wash-out literally due to clouds and rainy weather.
This morning my plans had been to catch some Perseids on video and stills, plus the waning crescent Moon between Jupiter and Venus. No go because of a cold front and rain moving into the area.

OverBoard Astronomy (A Great Comic Strip by Chip Dunham)

On the other hand several web sites were offering live video casts during the meteor shower peak times last night and this morning. Hence the cartoon!

Click here to see more Overboard.