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Impressive Perseid meteor shower

By Larry Mahon

Agate Ridge Observatory

Venus continues to set about 1 1/2 hours after the sun all month long. If you were watching the planet last month, you probably noticed it moving southward.

This month it continues moving along with the ecliptic, which is tipped 23 degrees to the plane of the Earth’s equator, and will shine further to the southwest as it sets. Venus passes to the lower left of the 3-day-old waxing crescent moon on Aug. 12.

Saturn is about 30 degrees above the southwest horizon 45 minutes after sunset shining at +0.6 magnitude. The distance between Saturn and Venus decreases from 53 to 18 degrees this month.

Saturn sets near midnight as August begins, and by the end of the month, it will set only an hour after Venus. No other bright planets will be visible in the dark sky in August.

As August begins, Jupiter rises in the morning sky before dawn at about 3:30 a.m., which is about 20 minutes before Mars and 75 minutes before Mercury, which rises, in the brightening sky, 90 minutes before sunrise.

This year’s Perseid Meteor Shower peaks when the sky is wonderfully dark. The peak of the shower will occur on the nights of Aug. 11-12 and 12-13. Some of the Perseids will appear in the evening, but the largest numbers are seen from 11 p.m. or 12 a.m., and until the sky begins brightening in the morning.

The Perseids are trails made by little debris bits from Comet 109/ Swift-Tuttle streaking into Earth’s upper atmosphere at 37 miles (60 km) per second.

The radiant point is in the northern Perseus Constellation. When it climbs high in the dark sky, we will be facing the stream of meteors and could possibly see one meteor per minute. Smaller numbers will be visible a night or two either side of the peak.

Of course, light pollution could also reduce this number, because you will not see the fainter ones. If you would like to make a reportable meteor count, follow the methods at; imo.net/visual/major.

The comfortable way to view and count them is to find the darkest location possible and use a recliner or a cot and a sleeping bag. Don’t get too comfortable or you could fall asleep after only a few minutes. I speak from experience. Happy viewing.



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