Join Us – The Perseids Under the Summer Milky Way

The Perseid meteor shower will peak on the morning of August 12th to 13th, promising as many meteors per hour as 60 to 80. (R130812_perseid_lgates of up to 100 per hour are possible, if rare). The next preceding and following nights should show plenty of activity as well, so CAAS is opening its River Ridge Observatory, on the first suitable night of those four, for those wishing to observe the shower as our guests under the summer Milky Way, accompanied by summer’s own chorus of woodland creatures.

Whether you observe with us, or on your own, to help you prepare we offer the following from UALR NOW, written by Darrell Heath, a Research associate in the animal lab at UALR in the day, but CAAS’s outreach coordinator and a NASA Ambassador by night.

“Heath said the majority of meteors are due to an object no bigger than a grain of sand colliding with Earth’s atmosphere and suddenly compressing that air to such an extent it heats it up to about 3,000-degrees Fahrenheit, making it glow.

Meteor matter hitting the atmosphere comes from comets, remnant building material billions of years old that went into making our solar system.

The Perseid showers are especially known for producing fireballs that may streak across a third of the sky. Their nearly 134,000-mph speed produces brilliant light when hitting the upper atmosphere. At about one-fifth of an inch wide, the dust grains burn nicely when they streak overhead.

To get the best out of meteor viewing, Heath has a few tips for observing:

  • Find the darkest skies possible from which to observe. Some of the streaks will be faint, and in order to see them you will need to get away from as much light pollution as possible.
  • Let your eyes get accustomed to the darkness. Sitting outside in the dark for 30 minutes to an hour will give you fine dark adapted eyes, and you will see many more of the fainter meteor streaks.
  • Avoid using lights of any kind, such as flashlights or cell phone lights. A second or two of exposure to bright light can ruin your dark adaptation. Red plastic film may be used to cover the front of a flashlight since red light is least damaging to dark adapted eyes.
  • Do not expect to begin seeing many meteors until well after dark. Rates will gradually increase throughout the evening and will peak before dawn.
  • Be patient, there will be moments of much meteor activity followed by lulls. Hang in there, things will pick up again eventually. Get comfortable, don’t strain your neck trying to twist around to constantly scan the sky. Lay down on the ground on a blanket or pad or recline in a lounge chair and let your eyes rove around the sky without having to constantly swivel your head.
  • You won’t need any kind of special equipment, but a pair of binoculars will reward you with some spectacular star fields as you scan the Milky Way from the southwest to overhead and across to the northeast parts of the sky. If your skies are especially dark, there is simply the grandeur of the Milky Way itself to observe.
  • Make sure you have water and snacks on hand along with some good insect repellant.
  • Invite family and friends, a meteor shower party is a great bonding experience and even if you don’t see many meteors, you will at least have spent some quality time with people you care about and maybe even have created a few memories that will last you and them a lifetime.
  • Meteor showers can be a great opportunity to get kids interested in astronomy and stargazing. Lots of questions may come. If you don’t know the answer, just say “I don’t know, but I’ll bet we can find the answer out together.” Helping find the correct answer can be an educational experience for you both and also teaches children how to navigate libraries, books, the Internet and other resources for information.”

The observatory will open to the registered guests at 8:00 p.m.  A brief welcoming program will take place at 8:30.  At 9:00 a sky tour will start, which will be followed by a star party with telescopes, while we wait for the radiant to rise toward the horizon.

We have restroom facilities on site, and coffee, tea, some cold beverage and snacks will be available on an honor pay basis.

Staying over night is encouraged. The class room will be converted into a bunkhouse for cots or sleeping bags, or you can camp out in your car, tent or under the stars.

Attendance by nonmembers will be limited.  So, even though this is a weeknight event, you will want to subscribe quickly.

RSVP for Perseid Meteor Shower

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