Posted by: Jerry Garrett | August 7, 2013

2013 Perseid Meteors: “Great Balls of Fire!” August 11-12-13

A new NASA study says the Perseids are the “fireball” meteor shower.

The peak of the 2013 version of Perseid Meteor Shower is coming!

What can star-gazers expect?

To paraphrase the great Jerry Lee Lewis: “Great balls of fire!”

Goodness gracious!

When, where & how to watch?

First of all, the 2013 shower, which got underway in early August and was scheduled to last into mid-August, was forecast to be at its fiery best on Aug. 11-12-13.

Sky watchers said they expected more than 100 meteors per hour at the peak, which was to start late in the evening on Aug. 11 and continue until almost dawn on Aug. 12.

The best times to watch?

In a nutshell: 10 p.m. to 4:30 a.m.

Absolute best time? “Happy Hour” was forecast to begin around 2 a.m.

Where’s the so-called “radiant point” – the most reliable place in the night sky to see where the meteors originate? Between the constellations of Cassiopeia and Perseus (hence the name of the meteor shower).

Hint: If you don’t know where those constellations are in the sky, your smart phone can help. My favorite sky-watching apps on my iPhone are StarWalk and Night Sky.

Why can’t you begin to see the meteors until 10 p.m. or so? Because Perseus doesn’t rise above the horizon in the northeast sky until about then. It gradually moves higher into the sky as the night goes on, as the meteors become easier to see.

How good was the 2013 shower expected to be?

Hard to predict, but Space.com said the Perseids are the most prolific meteor display of the year, and a new NASA study (see the video above) said the Perseids produce something like – on average – 568 of what astronomers call “dazzling fireballs”.

So that’s where the “Great Balls of Fire” line came from. We are not making this stuff up, folks!

Okay, how about a list of the best places to watch?

Generally speaking, as far away from city lights and nighttime “light pollution” as you can get. But for specific speaking, check out my earlier columns on this subject and a list of my ten favorite spots to watch.

Now here was why the 2013 Perseid Meteor Shower was supposed to be so great:

The moon. Or rather, the lack of it. Only a tiny crescent of waxing moon would be visible on the nights the Perseids would be best – and the moon was to have set early in the evening, well before the best of the meteor show started showering from the Heavens.

The new moon was Aug. 6, and some people were already out that night, and reporting a good number of those fireballs. Get out there!

Jerry Garrett

August 7, 2013

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