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Perseid meteor shower 2010

Posted by Derek Flack / August 10, 2010

perseid meteorThe Perseid meteor shower is set to light up the night sky around the GTA (and far beyond). Reaching its peak in the early morning of August 13, the annual event may just offer a celestial show to make up for what many hoped the northern lights would provide last week. So long as the skies are clear on the night in question, the chances of a spectacular display are quite high. Astronomers estimate that 60 or more meteors could be visible each hour following sunset on the 12th.

In fact, those wanting to get a jump on their stargazing can start as early as tonight. The Earth's orbit has already entered the outer debris field of the comet, which means that shooting stars should be visible for those who exercise some patience and who live far from major sources of light pollution. Unlike my disappointing aurora borealis chasing, I was lucky enough to see five Perseids last night despite the fact that I hadn't specifically gone looking for them.

But before that generates false excitement, I should qualify this by noting that I was far from the city and its concomitant light pollution. Still, one thing last night's viewing session underscored is the degree to which it's important to zone out on the area of the sky from which the meteors originate. Finding a a vantage point from which you can gaze northeast for extended periods of time will certainly pay dividends as long as you've managed to remove yourself from the worst of the city's lights.

perseid meteor shower guideIt's the usual drill as far as maximizing the viewing experience goes. Getting north will dramatically increase your chances of seeing multiple meteors. But, unlike the northern lights, which generally appear only at high latitudes, the Perseid meteor shower is visible throughout the entire northern hemisphere (my viewing last night took place from South Carolina). So short trips north of the city would be best, but getting up on top of an apartment building or condo on the north end of the city should also do the trick (if yield less dramatic results).

The Perseid meteor shower is the result of the comet Swift-Tuttle, which passes relatively close to Earth every 133-135 years. In fact, there's some speculation that the comet could ultimately strike our planet in the distant future (we're talking the year 4479 here...). For now, however, our orbit is merely passing through junk that the comet left when passing by our solar system long ago.

If you're not able to stay up late for the meteors, there's something of a consolation prize. Looking west at sunset will reveal a planetary conjunction featuring Venus, Mars and Saturn (along with a crescent moon).

So, as is always the case with these celestial events, let's hope the weather cooperates.

Photo by neuroticjose on Flickr. Constellation map via stardate.org.

Discussion

34 Comments

Sandy / August 10, 2010 at 10:59 am
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For those disappointed by other meteor showers and northern lights hunting, the Perseids shower is very consistent from year to year. If you can just a little north of the city, you're in for a treat!
Jesse / August 10, 2010 at 11:46 am
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any good suggestions for spots just north of the city to watch? I'm one of those close minded downtown apartment dwellers so really dont know any good spots outside the city, but I am willing to drive.
Pat Anderson / August 10, 2010 at 01:17 pm
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Ah! When have I really enjoyed the Perseids? One time, with my ex-husband, on the lawn of my parents' cottage/farm house in rural Nova Scotia. Was wonderful. Not much light pollution, fairly clear skies with low humidity. Another time with my friend Sandy, reclining in her Honda 2000 in rural Ontario north of Toronto, just took a secondary road and then out into a farmer's field, looking up at the skies. I recall the mosquitoes got to us that night. But is very fun to watch!
Ashley / August 10, 2010 at 01:49 pm
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Last night I was star gazing and we saw a couple flashes, so maybe it was the begining and like it said that it will peak the night of the 12th I beleive it has already begun! :)
Wesley Crusher / August 10, 2010 at 02:11 pm
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In 1992 many thought Swift-Tuttle would destroy the Earth the next time it passed in 2126. It's pretty wacked to think that eventually in 1000s of years, this little light show might spell the end of life here.
Inferno / August 10, 2010 at 04:04 pm
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Worth the drive up north..even if it is to markham
spooked / August 10, 2010 at 04:39 pm
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Every night for the past month I've been seeing bright stars in the sky that move. Not satellites or comets, the stars I'm seeing move only slightly, and always return to the same spot. At times they seem still, then they seem to zip around quite quickly. They're in the same place each night, and as the night progresses they track through the night sky with the other stars.
If you want to see what I'm talking about, face south and look about 60* up in a SSE directing, if it's dark enough you should see two stars, one quite bright and the other is dim. The dim one does not move, and gives reference to see that the bright one does indeed move.
Another two moving stars can be seen facing the same direction only looking up more, these other two are quite bright and are MOVING.
WTH
I'm sure there's an explanation for this, I just need to know.
Monica / August 10, 2010 at 05:44 pm
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It must be beautiful. I can't wait.
Natalie / August 10, 2010 at 06:34 pm
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My friends and I usually just lay down on the dock that stretches onto Lake Ontario at Oakville Harbour and still get an amazing view there. So awesome.
arlene mattera / August 10, 2010 at 06:37 pm
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What does GTA mean. It is used in the first sentence of the article.
tracy / August 10, 2010 at 09:41 pm
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GTA: General Toronto Area
Vince / August 10, 2010 at 10:35 pm
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I live in Mississauga City Center, where can I go to get a good view of this? Please tell, I am so disappointed with the northern lights.
Jo / August 10, 2010 at 11:26 pm
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GTA= Greater Toronto Area
moi / August 10, 2010 at 11:34 pm
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Despite the downtown Toronto haze, I spotted 4 tonight within 20 minutes. Looking forward to the 12th when it peaks!
Matthew T. Dearing / August 11, 2010 at 09:22 am
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The Society for Amateur Scientists has a new online research interface tool called iDoScience.org that will be used to record observations of the Perseid shower--and others in the future.

So, they are asking all amateur astronomers, citizen scientists, and professionals to register (for free) and record their personal observations of the upcoming meteor shower!

With the collection of observational data worldwide for this event... and future meteor events... we might be able to learn more about the evolution of the density of meteor events throughout the year, and from event to event, as well as have a growing data set for astronomers to utilize for other potential questions.

The iDoScience interface is live, but still in beta testing, so here are the instructions for logging in to submit your observations:

1) personally record the number of meteors observed in 5 minute intervals at least once per hour.
2) register for iDoScience through LabRats.org (for free). Click on "Personal" and create a data outpost that represents your personal observation location (using Lat. and Long.).
3) click on the "iDoScience" link and join the "Perseid Meteor" project to submit your observations. Sky conditions should be noted in the "Notes" box.

This is a great opportunity for anyone interested in being involved in a real global citizen science effort, and to just do something a little fun and interesting after a night of stargazing.
D Call / August 11, 2010 at 09:35 pm
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Check out Riverwood Conservatory in Mississauga tonight and tomorrow for viewing. See RASC Mississauga website for more info.
laura / August 12, 2010 at 07:58 am
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will egypt be able to see that ??
c.w. / August 12, 2010 at 12:45 pm
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GTA - Greater Toronto Area
Denise / August 12, 2010 at 10:15 pm
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I just saw 4 shooting stars (11pm)off the coast of Sydney Nova Scotia. I'm off to see a few more before bed.
Rae / August 12, 2010 at 11:25 pm
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anyone see anythign yet?
andrea / August 13, 2010 at 03:03 am
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about 2 or 3 weeks ago i was wathcing a star and it went out ? its augest 12 and my sis and i saw 2 meteors
kayc / August 13, 2010 at 03:57 am
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just got in from a city park.
sat out for a couple hours and saw about 30.
must be BEAUTIFUL out in the country though and would most likely see more out there.
Libby / August 13, 2010 at 07:15 am
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I saw three meteors last night,would have seen more but it was too late, Truro N.S.
d / August 13, 2010 at 10:27 am
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I was disappointed in the meteor shower both nights---it was a beautiful clear night--saw 2 on the 12th in about and hour--then only one on the 13th----not like one I saw many many years ago. Disappointed.
rose / August 13, 2010 at 02:30 pm
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My boy friend and I went 50 kilometer north from Toronto last night after 11:30. on our way we saw people standing on dark places looking sky. we stop in a very dark place stay there up to 2 a.m.and saw the shower from sky. It was coming from different direction. Some fall together that was nice. But it was not as I expected as saw on net picture. But still it was beautiful. hope next year will see the best-one.
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