Thursday, August 6, 2009

LOOK FOR: Meteors

August has been recorded as a peak date for meteor showers for centuries. Tiny grains of sand entering the Earth's atmosphere glow so brightly, they look like falling stars. The Perseids peak on a slightly different date every year, but usually August 11-13 or so...check the exact date here or here. Get out there and take a look. Maybe even make a wish.

Photo credit: cestomano
The darker it is when (and where) you're looking for falling stars, the more you should see. If you can, go somewhere away from artificial light sources. Your best bet in DC is probably Rock Creek Park; the Capital Astronomers like to use the field just south of the intersection of Military and Glover Roads NW, near the Nature Center. But on a good night, you may be able to see things from your backyard or rooftop, if you can turn off or block out any nearby lights.

Also avoid natural light sources. The sun sets around 8:00 PM, but it starts getting truly dark around 9:00 PM or later. Also check the moon phase: the less moonlight, the better your view.

The final thing you'll have to consider is the weather report. Clouds, obviously, will make it much harder to see the meteors. But so will humidity, which creates a haze that makes it harder to make out anything in the sky. Not to mention, a nice dry night makes it much more pleasant to be outside.