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We're about to encounter the Perseid meteor swarm (well, we already are, but the peak is tomorrow night). This is the best meteor show of the year, with a peak of 50-80 meteors per hour visible from a dark location. Here's where to look in the sky, toward the northeast, between midnight and dawn, when you'll see the most Perseids; note that the meteors streak away from the constellation Perseus, but could appear anywhere in the sky:


Click the image to see the story.

But you can go out tonight, or earlier tomorrow night, or on Friday night, too; you just won't see as many meteors (about 10-12 per hour on the nights before and after). Be sure to go somewhere with dark skies, because streetlights will drown out most of the smaller meteors. To eliminate as much sky-glow as possible, go north of your local city so that the city's lights are behind you rather than between you and the show. Also spend some time getting dark-adapted (your pupils take a while to fully embrace the light) before you can expect to see the most meteors - go with friends, camp out, make it a night!

Another great source for info here.

But wait, there's more! The show begins at sundown when Venus, Saturn, Mars, and the thin crescent Moon pop out of the western twilight in tight conjunction. All four heavenly objects fit within a circle about 10 degrees in diameter (smaller than your open hand at arm's length), shining together amid the sunset colors. All of these objects are very bright, so you can view this even with your naked eye. The full show will last until about 10:00pm, when the Moon sets. If you want to use a telescope, that's purely optional, as Mercury and Venus don't look like much more than bright disks, with Moon-like phases depending on where they are in their orbits. Here's a map for Thursday, but they'll be in conjunction starting tonight for the next few days. The line at the bottom is the horizon, and the sun is the clear circle below it:


Click the image to see the story.

So get out there and enjoy this incredible show!

Chris

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Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
affreca
Aug. 11th, 2010 04:35 pm (UTC)
Last time we went out to watch, we couldn't find any dark areas around here. Do you have any recommendations?
mckitterick
Aug. 11th, 2010 04:41 pm (UTC)
It doesn't need to be completely dark; just find the darkest spot you can, away from streetlights. I went out near the lake last year, but the farther north you go, the darker it gets. Here's a map of north-east Kansas:


Red is worst, black is darkest.

Edited at 2010-08-11 04:42 pm (UTC)
clevermanka
Aug. 11th, 2010 05:17 pm (UTC)
This website has a center-click-enlarge map, too. It's a little easier to find Lawrence on it. Looks like the area surrounding McClouth and Oskaloosa is your best bet, unless you wanna drive all the way out to Ozawkie/Lake Perry.
mckitterick
Aug. 11th, 2010 05:21 pm (UTC)
Nice! Thanks for sharing this.
rowanda380
Aug. 11th, 2010 05:50 pm (UTC)
random commenter
I am very excited about this shower, thanks for all of the extra info!
ericreynolds
Aug. 11th, 2010 09:24 pm (UTC)
I'm going to try my back yard tonight. We live near the edge of town and don't have any street lights and up until recently had really dark skies considering we're in OP. The city widen a street near us last year and decided it just had to have street lights (why, I never really know). Oh, and they cut some trees down to make sure the light spilled into the neighborhood, too. I tried to talk to them about it, but they were clueless and had no idea that dark skies are something to preserve.

I just hope it's not 90 degrees at midnight.
mckitterick
Aug. 11th, 2010 09:27 pm (UTC)
I just hope it's not 90 degrees at midnight.

Geez, no kidding! Good luck. Also, beware of rainstorms - big clouds moving in....
(Deleted comment)
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )