Perseid Meteors | 2016

The annual meteor shower called the Perseids is due to peak in the early morning hours of August 12. The best show is forecast to occur between 3 am and 5 am on the 12th when the radiant is highest in the northeast. The Moon will have set earlier providing the dark sky essential for their easiest viewing. If the predictions are correct, a rate up to 200 meteors per hour is possible, twice the usual rate. Time exposures over several hours could yield an image like this one from 2009 when the Perseids last gave such a high rate.

NASA | JPL | 2009

The Perseids are dust grains from comet Swift-Tuttle which orbits the Sun every 133 years. Every time the comet orbits the Sun, it leaves more particles. Earth crosses the path of debris each year. Some enter the atmosphere at very high speeds up to 132,000 mph (59 km/s) and burn up in flashes of light. Their Perseid name is because they appear to radiate out of the upper part of the constellation Perseus close to Cassiopeia in the upper right part of this graphic.

The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory shared this video summary of the Perseids and some other features of the night sky in August you might find interesting.

What is the best way to view the Perseids? This short video sums up the task. It is very easy. Basically, you need to lie on your back and watch the sky. Thanks to the folks at the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Their job is to monitor meteor impact hazards to spacecraft.

What if clouds are a problem? A live broadcast of the Perseid meteor shower will be available via Ustream overnight on Aug. 11-12 and Aug. 12-13, beginning at 10 p.m. EDT.


20 thoughts on “Perseid Meteors | 2016

  1. That’s quite a new header photo you have. At first glance, I thought it was Niagara Falls. As for the Perseids, I really am having a hard time believing they’re making their annual appearance. How did it get to be August already?

    • They sneak up on you. I hope you get to see some. We often get out for a walk before the sun is up much. That day we might be out at 3:30 or so for our walk. Naps later for sure.

  2. Hi Jim, very informative post. Lisa and I are looking forward to spending a couple nights in the mountains. I will send you a photo if we get any. Bob

  3. “In his song “Rocky Mountain High”, American singer-songwriter John Denver refers to his experience watching the Perseid meteor shower during a family camping trip in the mountains near Aspen, Colorado, with the chorus lyric, “I’ve seen it raining fire in the sky.”- Wiki

    Amazing, I also found this image:

    The afore mentioned image is interesting because it was made with a wide angle lens, and it’s one of the very fast (usually f/1.4 or so) kind. They have to be able to open this wide in order to grab a shot of such starry sky AND expose it well. They are usually very wide (14mm) and there are Japanese versions which are totally manual. That means you have to set the focus and the exposure yourself. However, they have a good reputation for their optics, and you’re not forced to buy the Cano high end version of this lens which very pricey. There cannot be any “comma blurs”, which is a sign of an inferior lens (soft corners make stars look like comas)

    Now star trails are another thing: as Earth spins under the sky, the stars appear to move. When a camera captures that movement, that’s called a star trail. However, the coma is the distortion and the fussines increased towards the corners of the frame. Here’s great 1950’s article:

    • Thanks for the John D reminder. One of my favorite memories is of the Perseids.

      The photo at ESO is gorgeous. I subscribe to a blog from there which posts images now and then. What great seeing.

      The coma test images in the book link are really good. I’ve seen the effects many times. One example is when photographing the large quilts my dear Melanie makes. They take up the entire frame. Distortion and coma are things you don’t want to see.

      Thanks for those, Maria.

      • I just realized the article I sent you is too long; I meant to send you just the distortion section. However, I found it so hilarious AND nostalgic because that’s the time my parents were raised, and it reminded me so much of what my father must have gone through, although most of what he liked were historical monuments.

        I also sent you the modern Perseid image link because I’m secretly yearning to get one of those wide angle lenses! Oh starry nights!!

  4. Funnily enough, my son and I saw a shooting star the other evening while we were walking home. I wonder how many more we might have seen had we actually been looking for them. (Stunning header, by the way.)

    • Sorry for the slow reply. Your comment was moved into a spam folder for some reason. I just now noticed it.

      I hope you saw more on another night. Some of the best I’ve seen were when I wasn’t looking for them.

      Thanks for the header remark. Mars is a very interesting place.

      • No problem about the spam folder. I have an adventurous streak, and so often like to take a detour into other blogger’s spam folders.

        I hope we see another shooting star. It was quite a thrill for us to see such a clear one. 🙂

      • That is an unusual thing you do. I suppose it would be easy to ‘get lost’ in some of those spam folders. 🙂

        Do come again for a visit. Did you see my latest post about the Space Station in front of the Sun? To me, it was more thrilling than a meteor.

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