Skip to comments.New Meteor Shower on Tap Tonight: How to See It (Friday & Saturday)
Posted on 05/23/2014 5:48:00 PM PDT by bd476
Meteor observation doesn't have to be rocket science: All you have to do is lie back in a comfortable place and look up at the sky with the naked eye. Every so often, a meteor will flit across the stars. You simply make a note on a clipboard or speak into a tape recorder.
Meteor showers are beautiful! Here's how to catch shooting stars.
On Friday night and early Saturday morning (May 23-24), Earth will plow through debris shed over the years by Comet 209P/LINEAR. The result likely will be a new meteor shower, and possibly a spectacular meteor storm of 1,000 or so shooting stars per hour, experts say.
Even if you can't watch the meteor shower in person, you can catch the celestial showcase live online via a few webcasts.
The Slooh community is hosting live views of the shower beginning at 11 p.m. EDT (0300 May 24 GMT), and they will also stream a webcast about Comet 209P/LINEAR before that at 6 p.m. EDT (2200 GMT). Watch the webcasts directly through Slooh.com, or catch the Slooh meteor shower feed on Space.com. The Virtual Telescope Project will also host a meteor shower webcast. (See maps and pictures about the new meteor shower)
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No two observers prepare for a meteor vigil the same way. It will help if you can take a late-afternoon nap and a shower, and wear all fresh clothing. The ground can get cold, so heavy blankets, sleeping bags, cushions and even pillows are all essential. Sleeping bags provide some mosquito protection, but don't forget the insect repellent!
A long, reclining lawn chair makes a good observation platform because it's comfortable, portable and, in most cases, relatively inexpensive. It also allows you to move your head toward any section of the sky. A Thermos of hot coffee, tea or juice is a welcome comfort. Avoid alcohol; it impairs night vision.
Find a safe observing site that provides a wide-open view of the sky. Once you arrive, allow 20 minutes for your eyes to become fully adapted to the dark. You can use a flashlight, but only after you make some key modifications: Cover the lens with a sheet of dark-red cellophane, since dim red light affects your eyes far less than lamplight.
Complete darkness is best for observing meteors. With light pollution so widespread, it's getting harder to find a truly dark sky. Use the bowl of the Little Dipper to help determine how dark the sky in your area is. The brightest star in the Little Dipper is Kochab, a second-magnitude star. The next brightest is Pherkad, at third magnitude. The next brightest star is fourth-magnitude, and the next brightest is fifth-magnitude. So, if you can see all four stars in the bowl, you're in a pretty dark observing site. Keep in mind that for an increasing number of locations, only Kochab and Pherkad are visible, meaning you're likely to miss many of the fainter streaks.
It really doesn't make much of a difference in which direction you face. You just don't want trees, buildings or sky glow blocking your field of view.
Gazing directly overhead (at the zenith) might be best. Your clenched fist held at arm's length measures roughly 10 degrees; some groups recommend looking about 60 degrees up in the direction of the radiant; the radiant for the Comet 209P/LINEAR meteors is in the dim constellation of Camelopardalis, which will be located about one-third up in the sky from the north-northwest horizon.
Use a portable radio to stay updated on the weather. Before changing to what might be a better site, however, note whether the cloudiness is spotty. Sometimes, there are lengthy intervals when few meteors can be seen. Of course, hourly counts mean little if your sky is not entirely clear. (How to Pronounce the Camelopardalids (Video))
If you just want to wait for the occasional shooting star, that's fine. But it's much more fun and interesting to make a useful meteor count that can be reported to the International Meteor Organization (IMO) and the American Meteor Society (AMS) to be compared with other people's results. You'll need a watch or a clock, a notepad, a pen or pencil, a red-covered flashlight and, if you have it, a tape recorder so you can dictate notes without taking your eyes off the sky.
Meteors have a way of coming in bunches that defy counting, magnitude estimating and plotting all at the same time. Often, people notice what some call the "clumping effect" meteors arrive in groups of two or three, and will fall within a matter of seconds, followed by a lull period of several minutes or more before the sky again bears fruit. Some observers say this is an illusion; if you are observing alone, just make hourly counts and estimate magnitudes. It's helpful to use a hand counter to click off the number of meteors you see.
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Meteor observing can also be a fun social affair. But if you observe in a group, do not combine results! Group counts are worthless. If you're in a group, assign each observer a limited program. Every person should observe as if alone, preferably watching a different section of the sky. Try not to be influenced by somebody who might yell out something like, "Whoa, look at that!"
The simplest method is to just count the meteors you see. If a few obstructions intrude, they should block no more than 20 percent of your view, and you must note the percentage of the view they're covering. The same applies to clouds.
If you take any breaks, note the times each begins and ends. Your vigil should total at least an hour, not counting breaks, and preferably longer. Ever hour, separate your observing records with a time annotation.
For more details, check out the IMO website at http://www.imo.net/ and the American Meteor Society website at http://www.amsmeteors.org/.
Heard prediction of 1k/hr. That would be fantabulous.
It would be even better if we weren’t under a heavy cloud cover — guess I’ll have to go with the online observatory.
My daughter and I will be heading out over the mountains to the clear skies of Eastern Washington to watch it. I hope the drive is worth it!
Already getting set up! The sky looks like it’s going to be clear and dark here in W. Michigan.
I remember watching a meteor shower from my roof in the early 90’s.
I lived way out in the desert and me and my friends set up chairs over the apex with a cooler of beer at hand. It was quite a show!
Fantastic! It will be fun to hear what you saw, your impressions whenever you get a chance, later, tomorrow, whenever.
Sounds like great fun. Around here to get away from all the city lights, you have drive out miles away and into the wilderness, into bear, coyote and mountain lion country. That means it’s roof of the car or nothing, and even then, it’s still can be a little spooky.
Beers, chairs on the apex of a roof, leaning back watching the stars.
What could possibly go wrong?
I’ll try to catch this one. I am a little close to the city here in NC but since I had to travel to Clemson and back today I’m also a bit tired.
Thanks for the heads up. These events can be quite spectacular, esp out west. :^)
LOL! I had one flat roof over the laundry room for access. 8ft step ladder and up you go. Peeing off the flat top was allowed for this event only.
If you fall, remember to bring up more beer...
Tonight is supposed to be the big show yet they say that tomorrow will also be good. Whatever you do, please don’t drive while drowsy. :) There are also going to be live streaming videos available to see.
Will do! :)
Good night vision equipment easily triples the sightings. Good IR scopes drop sightings to zero.
My friends and I. :-)
That sentence seems to be missing some parts. :^)
It’s starting, because I just saw a few in central Mississippi.
in Arizona I have not seen any but I am only watching in five minute chunks
I’m going back outside, and will be in and out as I get thirsty.
Ben out for the last 15 minutes in southern SC. Nothing yet.
Reports of only a few, mostly in the Midwest. Just reported that Ontario Canada is getting a pretty good shower.
Reports are a bust mostly everywhere. Even NASA TV has dropped coverage. Just got back in after 20 minutes. Nothing. The peak just passed.
Saw one weak one between 3:00\3:45....ISS looked cool though, nice and bright passing west to east.
Overcast and raining in Connecticut. Just dang!
Well, I drove all the way out to Sunset, TX from Fort Worth to try to escape the cloud cover. No dice. Dang it. I really wanted to see the shower.
Heard any reports from elsewhere? We got bunk here in North Texas.
SE Texas reporting in. Zero meteor sightings, and 4 mosquito bites.
Its 3.40 right now, I was up at 3.20 and have not saw even one, the sky is clear and bright.
My daughter and I drove an 1.25 hours to the east. Found a gravel road out in a field to park - one other car from Seattle area had found the same one. He had been there for an hour with no meteors.
From about 11:45 to 12:30 we saw 6-8 “normal” ones. From 12:30 to 12:45 we saw perhaps 15 “normal” ones, with a few of those pretty good.
Then my daughter saw a huge one that left a trail. (I caught the trail).
Then we both saw one that was very bright (orange) and left a pulsating trail - perhaps bouncing along the atmosphere as it burned up?
The final one was a very bright orange, with a comet-like orange tail about 2 fists (20 degrees?) long. REALLY COOL!
So got to see the stars, some regular meteors, three REALLY great ones (my daughter anyway). Plus got to listen to the frogs, the smell of hay, and she was reminded again of what crickets sound like. A good evening well spent. In spite of the lack of meteors.
I was correcting your English and politeness. Not proper to ssy me and my friends. Lol.
Well I’m not sure about anyone else, but I think this was pretty much a bust.
My daughter and I drove an 1.25 hours to the east. Found a gravel road out in a field to park
As a kid we used to sleep out side in the summer and lived in small towns or in the country so seems we saw falling stars all the time, so we just took it for granted that it happened all of the time.
I also must have seen the showers a time or two where there were more than one at a time.
This is the first time I have ever knew ahead of time that it was going to happen so I thought maybe I would see something spectacular, oh well....
After waiting another half hour, I decided I was not going to miss a "storm", so I left. Urban lighting intruded on the northern horizon, so I could not see any stars of Camelopardalis, but I don't know if I've ever seen any! It's kind of a mystery constellation to me. I could see Draco pretty well, and Ursa Major's "feet" looked nice and bright, as did Cassiopeia's "chair".
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