Perseids Meteors Are Favourable For August 2012 – This Guide Is Updated For 2012
Every year in early August, we can observe the Perseid meteor shower (“the Perseids”) and it’s a fascinating sky event. This year 2012, the Perseid peak activity is expected on Sunday August 12th 2012.
The Moon will be waning at 24 days old and rise later in the night, so if you have clear skies over you, it should be favourable conditions for seeing the Perseid meteors.
Here’s a beginners’ guide to the Perseid meteor shower and how best to enjoy it. (Perhaps, impress your friends with these astronomy questions and answers!)
What are the Perseids and what is a meteor?
Every year in August, the Earth passes through rock and dust fragments left behind by the comet Swift-Tuttle, last time it came near the Sun. As these small particles collide with the Earth’s atmosphere, they burn-up, often creating a startling streak of light across the sky.
You can easily observe this and it can be a wonderous spectacle.
Why is it called the Perseid meteor shower?
The term “Perseid”, refers to the star constellation of Perseus.
The meteors actually have nothing to do with the stars we see from Earth, as being part of Perseus. It just appears as though the meteors originate from Perseus.
In fact, the rock fragments are close to the Earth – that’s why they burn in our atmosphere.
They are very close, just a few hundred miles – not many, many light years distant like the stars.
But, if you trace-back the bright trails of meteors we see, they appear to originate from the stars of Perseus.
When can you see them?
The Perseid meteor shower actually starts in late July and runs to late August. However, the best time to view is around the peak.
It’s not precise, but the 2012 peak is expected on Sunday August 12th.
The predicted peak hours are during the European morning (10.00 GMT). So if you are in the US or Asia and the East, the predicted peak may be closer to your local hours of darkness.
But having said that, there is always uncertainty in these meteor shower predictions, so it may be very worthwhile to observe during the hours of darkness and indeed, other nights, before and after the expected peak.
But this year the Moon should not be a problem, as mentioned already.
What equipment do you need to observe the meteor shower?
The good news is none! Just use your eyes.
It will help your observation if you give your eyes some time (say 15 minutes), to become adapted to the darkness.
Binoculars may also help, but on the other hand, they may restrict your view to a small part of the sky.
The meteors originate in the region of Perseus, but they may appear in view just about anywhere in the sky. Although, if you were to track-back their trails, you would get to Perseus.
Can they be measured, at all?
Yes. Keen astronomers count how many appear in a fixed period of time, in a certain area of the sky. This is expressed as a Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR).
We may expect around 100 streaks of meteor light across the sky per hour, at or near the shower peak.
Do please look-up and be alert for Perseid meteors, on Sunday 12th August during hours of darkness and in the nights before and after.
Best of observing luck!