Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Perchance to See the Perseids in the Rainy Season

The Perseid meteor shower (August 11-13) is perhaps the most anticipated every year because of the high frequency of meteors. In 2009, it's hyped for it's up to 200-meteors-an-hour frequency. Still, the Perseids is one shower that not everyone can appreciate, especially if you're somewhere in the world where it's the rainy season. Yes, areas like Southeast Asia usually get typhoons in August and it's almost always cloudy. Residents of countries like the Philippines, where meteor shower gazing has gained popularity in the past decade, always have trouble appreciating the Perseids. So what can be done?

It's really beyond your control to change the weather where you're at, so the next best thing might be to take a look at satellite weather photos and try to determine the place in your country where there will be clear skies. If there are storms, ask the weather bureau where the skies will likely be clear when the shower comes, which is usually on the 12th and 13th of August. More often than not, you may need to fly to the selected place for observation and get accommodations well ahead.

Choose a place on the map where you can expect crystal clear skies. These areas will be obvious on weather satellite images. It pays to plan ahead and get to know the place a little bit by researching over the Internet. You have to consider ease of travel and security. Of course, you also have to determine if there's a place where you can observe the shower in peace and away from city lights. If you are in a group, consider getting assistance from a travel agency specializing in the place you've chosen.

Observing meteor showers is really easy. The best thing to do is to lie down on the ground just after sunset, look up and wait for the meteors to light up the sky, like the one in the photo above by Mila Zinkova. You may be lucky to get a few surprises like bolides, which are big meteors that break up upon entering the atmosphere! The Perseids would appear to have a central origin, the radiant, in the vicinity of the constellation Perseus (left).

If, despite your efforts, no suitable place to observe the Perseids has been arrived at. Then you can contact someone from another country and have that person do the observing for you. Documenting the shower with either a still or video camera is a good idea. If you don't know anyone else on this earth willing to do the observations for you, then just wait for the Geminid meteor shower. It's supposedly the next best thing to the Perseids, and it happens in December - on the 12th and 13th. Skies are usually crystal clear on that month and you'd likely get a good show.

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