Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Perseid Meteor Shower in Twin Cities 2010

Posted by Kirk
The peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower is in just two days but sky watchers are already reporting meteors in the night sky. Viewers in Minneapolis, Saint Paul and the surrounding area should have a good view.

Science has come a long way on these showers to the point that astronomers are getting better at predicting which years will be good and at what exact times the earth will encounter the most dense clouds of debris. The debris that burns up in a meteor shower is from dust trails left by passing comets. The debris that creates the Perseid Meteor Shower is from comet Swift-Tuttle. The comet shows up every 130 years and the last visit was in 1992.

By all accounts this is shaping up to be a great year for the Perseid Meteor Shower. The peak of the shower (the time we pass through the densest part of the stream) will be at 7:00 p.m. Central Daylight Time on Thursday, August 12 . That's too early for it to be dark but the show should be good after the sun sets. If you can't get out on Thursday night you can try Wednesday night. Even as early as Monday, people were seeing up to 20 meteors an hour in dark locations. The moon won't ruin this year's show so all signs point to a good show. The big question is will the clouds cooperate.

People have asked me where the best place is to view meteor showers in the twin cities metro area. That's a tough question. It all depends on how many you want to see. I've seen plenty of meteors from my light polluted St. Paul back yard. Shield your eyes from any stray light such as street lamps and turn the lights off in your house. Most of all, let your eyes adjust to the dark. Fifteen to thirty minutes of letting your eyes adjust to the dark will let you see many many more meteors.

Suppose you want to drive a little though to get a good view? Check out the Minnesota Astronomical Society website. They have a really cool light pollution map created by Craig Cotner. If you look at the map, you can see light pollution is pretty bad anywhere near the metro. What direction to travel depends a little on where in the metro you live. Heading out to an area in the yellow zone on the map will at least give you somewhat darker skies. You need a minimum of a two hour drive to get to a truly dark site and likely it will take even longer. Think boundary waters for true darkness! At any rate, you can most likely easily see a few good "shooting stars." from your own back yard.