Perseids Timelapse

Unable to shake growing anticipation for peak Perseids early next week, ponders turned to finding the perfect timelapse teaser.

Pondering Perseid

As August approaches, imprinted longing for meteors follow. Youthful recollections ebb and flow, the one constant is Perseid. These were the stars I wished upon, my source of wonder, the reason I gazed at night’s sky. Perseid lent perspective to questions I hadn’t asked, cementing the essence of who I became. Effortless memory presses damp grass against my back, heart beating to the pulse of cricket song. Swaddled in darkness, even the wind waits for Perseid.

Every year between July 17 and August 24, Earth crosses the orbital path of Comet Swift-Tuttle.  Swift-Tuttle has a wonky oblong orbit, completing one orbit around the sun every 133 years. during those years ST travels from beyond Pluto to inside Earth’s orbit. Whenever ST crosses the inner solar system heat from our sun “melts” comet ice adding cosmic debris to ST’s tail. Little break away pieces, most no larger than grains of sand slam Earth’s upper atmosphere at 210,000 kilometers an hour – the Perseids have arrived.

This year the Perseids peak August 11-13. Early northern hemisphere evening finds radiant Perseus low on the horizon, if you’re lucky a rare “Earthgrazer”might forge a horizontal blaze across the horizon. As evening becomes night the radiant point rises, Perseid abandons rehearsal for the main event. Perseid’s tantalizing sets play through the night – from midnight till first light’s encore,  expect 50-100 meteors an hour.

This year, a waning crescent moon won’t come up until just before sunrise, setting a dark stage for Perseid glory. It doesn’t matter if radiant Perseus eludes you, Perseids knock loudly. Noted for being exceptionally fast and bright, their ionized gas trails often hang in the sky for wondrous moments. Dismiss concentrating on specific direction – find a dark place, lay back and open your eyes to the cosmos. Perseid will find you.

View larger. | Meteor seen at Acadia National Park during the 2012 Perseid meteor shower.  Photo from EarthSky Facebook friend Jack Fusco Photography.  See more from Jack here.



Hail Perseids

A few minutes ago I stepped outside for a whiff of air, apparently on cue.  Closing the door the exact moment a magnificent fireball split night’s horizon. Not some timid falling star – a full on cosmic slap, complete with adrenalin rush, racing pulse and heightened senses. Night had my undivided attention. I get goosebumps thinking about it – one of those inexplicable portraits, indelibly etched in conscience for all eternity. It’s entirely possible I danced a jig while chanting “hail Perseid” in my head.

August brings the annual Perseid meteor shower – dependable and prolific, the source of countless childhood wishes. Peaking on August 12, debris from comet Swift-Tuttle has competition this year. Reaching a zenith two days after a “super moon”, (14% bigger and 30% brighter than average full moons) light pollution plans to give Perseid a run for the money. Linked below are tips from earthsky to maximize viewing….

Another link…

All I ask is to open your night eyes the next few days. Promise me – if Perseid smacks your head – dance an impromptu jig while chanting hail Perseid.

Meteor Storm or Bust

Meteor showers are unpredictable. I would be a sorry advocate for all things space if on that basis I failed to mention their possibilities. Recent Eta Aquarids eluded detection in my corner of the world – uncooperative cloud cover having no use for the whims of star gazers. Undaunted, a recent announcement by NASA has my pondering heart aflutter.

Mark May 24 on your calendar as a possible meteor circus – particularly for those is the northern hemisphere. On that day our orbit will pass a heap of cosmic junk left behind by 209P/LINEAR, a new comet heralding a never before witnessed meteor shower. Giddy predictions peg the show at upwards of 200 meteors an hour with the giddiest of scientific minds calling for a meteor storm.

Dubbed the May Camelopardalids for a radiant point in the distant constellation Camelopardalis, one contributing factor to a possible bonanza is the fact all cosmic tailing expelled between 1803 and 1924 will light up our skies on May 23 and early on the 24th. Cautious science favors a “wet blanket” estimate of around 200 meteors an hour, claiming 209P/LINEAR has a weak dust trail. Even this party pooper prediction rivals the Persiads for one heck of a show.

To reach “meteor storm” status a lofty 1000 per hour would have to pepper night skies. Just knowing that at the very least upwards of 200, most likely in the range of 400 meteors an hour plan to dance through the upper atmosphere – makes me swoon in anticipation.


Hail Aquarids


For the next few days Earth’s orbit passes through debris from Halley’s comet – an annual event known as the Eta Aquarid meteor shower.

Animation Credit: NASA MSFC

Named for constellation Aquarius and the star Eta – the focal point Aquarids radiate from. It doesn’t matter where in the world you live, look towards the eastern horizon a few hours before dawn on May 5 and 6th. Dependable,  with a respectable average of 60 meteors an hour, Aquarids are one of the easiest showers to view.

The reason pre-dawn star gazing delivers results is that the radiant (Aquarius) is highest in the sky an hour or two before twilight. The radiant isn’t as high in the northern hemisphere as southern hemisphere skies. Southern hemisphere sky gazers get more sky streakers an hour, northern hemisphere enthusiasts get “earthgrazers” – extremely flashy slow moving show offs moving horizontally across the upper atmosphere as the radiant rises – look for them around 2 – 2:30 am.

Meteors are nothing more than tiny particles, no larger than grains of sand, entering our atmosphere from 7 – 45 miles per second depending on their entry in relation to our orbit.  Meteor showers simply cosmic dust trails left by passing comets – nothing substantial enough to survive our atmosphere – absolutely no chance of impact.

A link to Earthsky’s 2014 meteor guide….

Geminids and Gibbous Moons

When the Geminid meteor shower peaks on Dec. 13 and 14, a pesky, almost full moon is poised to steal fireball thunder. The annual Geminids are one of the most prolific night shows, with an average of 120 meteors an hour. As if losing ISON wasn’t bad enough; a bright winter moon is expected to reduce visible meteors 2 – 5 fold.

Annual meteor showers result from earth’s orbit intersecting debris from a sun orbiting comet. Radiant point, is the name given to this intersection. Debris from comet 3200 Phaethon happens to intersect our orbit in the vicinity of constellation Gemini, hence – Geminids. To find Gemini, look for the star Castor, low on the east, north-east sky around 9 PM. Castor is one of the brightest stars in the sky and along with Pollux, make up the ” twin brothers ” of Gemini. The reason Geminids produce so many visible meteors is that the constellation and radiant point swing upward; by 2 AM the point is directly above you in the sky. The angle of the radiant, translates into no poor seats for this show – you can see it from anywhere, with 2 AM as your prime time.

This year we have a waxing gibbous moon to deal with – not a deal breaker, but grounds for some new rules. Since the nearly full moon is so bright, you should wait until the moon sets. This year pre-dawn moon set offers the best view. Get out of town – away from city lights – and give yourself a few minutes to adjust to the darkness. Gibbous moon aside – I guarantee you’ll see fireballs – you don’t even have to find Gemini, the Geminids have a crazy way of appearing to come from any direction.

To find out when the moon sets in your little corner of the world – a link…..

Ponder the last time you wished upon a falling star.

Jupiter, Castor and Pollux rise at early-to-mid evening in early December but at dusk or nightfall  by the month's end.

Jupiter, Castor and Pollux rise at early-to-mid evening in early December but at dusk or nightfall by the month’s end.

Beyond Perseid

Perseids peak tonight. Perhaps you were able to ponder their magic, and want more, or sadly missed out and want some. Either way, Perseid is not the only show in town. Its well known because it occurs in  summer, and has an impressive number of meteors per hour. The Quadrantids, January 1 – 6, peaking on the 3 and 4th is the most prolific, based on meteors per hour at the peak. They originate from a comet recently named 2003EH1, and boast 10 more meteors per hour than Perseid.

April 19 – 24, brings the Lyrids, from Comet Thatcher, they peak on the 22nd with a paltry 12 an hour.

May 1 – 8 is the Eta-Aquards, appearing from the constellation Aquarius, courtesy Halley’s Comet. They peak May 5 – 6 at 45 per hour.

June Lyrids are from the 10 – 21, you might hardly notice them with 9 per hour. their source is not known.

July 15 – August 15 is the Southern Delta Aquarids. Coming from Aquarius near the star Delta, they peak July 28 – 29 at 19 per hour.

Oct. 16 – 26 the Orionids, peaking on the 21st at 25 per hour.

Nov. 4 – 7 the Taurids from Comet Encke, 8 per hour.

Nov. 15 – 19 is the Leonids, appearing from constellation Leo, courtesy Temple-Tuttle Comet, about 10 per hour.

Dec. 7 – 15 the Geminids peaking on the 13 – 14th with a substantial 80 an hour. This shower is the only one resulting from asteroid debris.

Finally the Ursids, Dec. 17 – 24, from Comet Tuttle, with 9 an hour….

Photo from