Archives For Perseids

Fireball image captured at 11:36 PM EDT, August 11, 2020 by Hiram’s NASA All-Sky Fireball Network camera. The time stamp in the camera image reads 03:36 UTC — Coordinated Universal Time — which converts to 11:36 PM EDT. Credit: NASA

 

by James Guilford

Hey! That’s my fireball!!

I had stepped outdoors to check the sky (hoping to see at least one Perseid Meteor) and witnessed a fireball  at 11:36 PM; it was captured by the NASA All-Sky Fireball Network camera system hosted by Hiram College. That was the first time I had spotted a meteor that was also captured by the automated camera. The “shooting star” is not very impressive in the picture but it was a beauty by eye, glowing brightly and leaving a long “smoke trail” as it traveled from south to north.

Below is a summary of the data the NASA system was able to derive from Hiram, Oberlin College, and Allegheny Observatory imagery. Rather than a Perseids meteor, it was classified as an Alpha Capricornids meteor — that shower peaked in late July.

Data Summary for the fireball recorded at 11:36 PM EDT, August 11, 2020. Credit: NASA

 

If you are interested in NASA’s All-Sky Fireball Network, here’s a link to their website. Meteor data are updated daily with image captures and event summaries. Hiram’s is one of 17 all-sky cameras located in the continental U.S. https://fireballs.ndc.nasa.gov.

On August 13, 2013, Hiram College became the host for one of NASA’s All-Sky Camera Fireball Network stations, Oberlin College and Allegheny Observatory joining with us. The automated camera system watches the sky every night for exceptionally-bright meteors called fireballs.

James Guilford operates Stephens Memorial Observatory for the Physics Department of Hiram College.

 

A fireball meteor streaks across the sky north of Hiram at 3:38 AM, August 8, 2020. The large white “blob” in this image is the waning Gibbous Moon. Credit: NASA All-Sky Fireball Network/Hiram College Camera

It’s Perseids season!

The annual Perseid Meteor Shower peaks from August 11 to 13, the event many consider to be the best meteor shower of the year, thanks to frequent meteors streaking across the sky and comfortable nighttime temperatures. This year, skywatchers can expect to see between 50 and 75 meteors an hour under dark skies, or about one meteor every minute. The meteors are bits of material strewn across Earth’s path in space by Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. The bits of dust and grit glow brightly as they burn up while entering Earth’s atmosphere at about 37 miles per second.

This year, for those who venture out before midnight on the peak date(s), Earth’s Moon won’t interfere. Dedicated meteor spotters — those who observe in the wee hours between midnight and dawn — may curse as Moon rises and brightens the sky, making faint meteors harder to see. There is another problem, however, much closer to home: the weather.

 

2020 Perseids Viewing Forecast for the continental United States. Credit: Accuweather

 

The weather forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Of course.

Do not abandon hope.

The nights preceding and following the shower’s peak see occasional meteors from the Perseid and Alpha Capricornid showers and include fireballs (very bright meteors) from both. When the sky’s clear, go out and enjoy the mild nights that may include “shooting stars.” After twilight fades, find a dark spot, spread out a blanket, or untangle that deck lounge chair, apply a little mosquito repellent and look up. As your eyes grow used to the dark you’ll see more and more stars, planets Jupiter and Saturn gracing the southern sky, and with decently dark sky, spy the soft clouds of our own Milky Way galaxy. You’ll probably see a satellite or two, too.

 

Our Night Sky: August 11, 2020, 11:59 PM. Note: The bright dot that appears to be labeled Pluto is actually Jupiter! Pluto is the tiny purple speck next to it and you won’t be able to see Pluto. Credit: SkySafari — CLICK FOR FULL-SIZE IMAGE

 

Image: Saturn: August 12, 10:00 PM EDT - Simulated view via Gas Giants app

Saturn: August 12, 10:00 PM EDT – Simulated view via Gas Giants app

UPDATE: Due to mostly-cloudy to overcast skies and recurring scattered thunderstorms, this event has been CANCELED. — JG, 8/12/16, 8:00 PM.

Stephens Memorial Observatory of Hiram College will be open for public observing Friday, August 12, from 9:30 to midnight. Hoping to catch the end of the annual Perseid Meteor Shower, the observatory is hosting its monthly public event on this Friday rather than on Saturday night.

Visitors are invited to bring personal lawn chairs and sit out beneath the stars watching for meteors (mosquito repellent is strongly recommended) until midnight. Via telescope, views of beautiful Saturn, and other objects will also be offered. Saturn’s famous ring system is nicely tilted allowing for excellent viewing, given clear skies.

No reservations are required and there is no admission fee for observatory public nights. Cloudy skies at the starting time cancel the event and, in that case, the observatory will not open.

The Observatory is located on Wakefield Road (Rt. 82) less than a quarter of a mile west of Route 700 in Hiram. There is no parking at the Observatory. Visitors may park on permissible side streets near the Post Office, a short distance east of the observatory.

Photo: 2015 Perseids meteor shower imaged over five hours by Scott MacNeill

2015 Perseids Peak by Scott MacNeill, Frosty Drew Observatory, Charlestown, Rhode Island – http://exitpupil.org/

For those with a dark site from which to watch, and the patience to “wait for it…” the 2015 Perseids meteor shower was a good show. Reports from around the world noted substantial numbers of “shooting star” sightings. In the Northeastern Ohio area, amateurs reported from 25 to as many as 57 meteors per hour from good viewing locations. Local observers reported seeing persistent trains, greenish colors, and even flares from some meteors.

The NASA All-Sky “Fireball Network” recorded hundreds of meteors during the event peak, the night of August 12 to 13. “The Perseid shower last night was an almost perfect combinations of circumstances – no Moon, decent shower rates, and clear skies over much of the network,” wrote Dr. Bill Cooke, Meteoroid Environments Office, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.

Photo: Long Trail of a Perseid Fireball Recorded at 9:42 PM, August 12 via NASA All-Sky Fireball Network

Long Trail of a Perseid Fireball Recorded at 9:42 PM EDT, August 12

The Fireball Network camera system located on the campus of Hiram College recorded a good number of fireballs — meteors brighter than the planet Venus — overnight including several that appeared directly overhead and at least one that appears to have ended in a flare … a bolide. In the images we have posted here, the top of the photo is north and the bottom is south.

Photo: Apparent Perseid Bolide over Hiram at 2:59 AM EDT. NASA All-Sky Fireball Network

Apparent Perseid Bolide over Hiram at 2:59 AM EDT, August 13

The Perseid meteors are associated with the stream of dusty debris called the Perseid cloud and stretches along the orbit of the comet Swift–Tuttle. Meteors appear when Earth passes through the dust cloud and bits of cometary material plunge into the atmosphere where friction heats and vaporizes them. The debris particles enter Earth’s atmosphere at around 35 miles per second and most are about the size of grains of sand. The name of the shower is derived from the fact that the meteors, if traced back along their paths, appear to radiate from the constellation Perseus.