Knowing that weather forecast looked grim for tonight’s maximum of the annual Perseid Meteor Shower, I sat out in a lawn chair for an hour last night and then again around 4 a.m. this morning. Normally I have the radio going. This morning a Mozart piece competed with the katydids and the crickets for background music. Guess who won out? Yes, it was the katydids. Sorry Mozart.
Activity was good last night — between my daughter Maria and I we counted 11 over a span of 45 minutes of viewing. This morning, with the radiant high in the eastern sky, I expected a big upsurge but was disappointed. Over an hour, only three faint spears were thrown from Perseus’ hand. Jupiter grabbed most of the attention since it was due south in a very empty region of sky, making it all the more prominent.
Orion rose during the early part of dawn, and my desire to see it was so strong, I soaked my shoes in dew while walking to the far end of the backyard to get a clear view to the east. There’s something special about the combination of warm air and fully-leafed trees framing winter’s best known constellation.
Tonight when you’re out waiting for the peak of the meteor shower to get underway, start early during twilight with a look to the southwest. If your horizon is wide open, you’ll catch a thin crescent moon and above it, the planet Venus. Scattered above Venus are Mars and Saturn, but I’ll bet you’ll need binoculars to see them, so deep are they now in twilight. Over the coming two weeks, Saturn will slide down toward the horizon night by night and soon disappear. Mars and Venus will be around for a while yet.
I looked at the sun this morning and was surprised to see that the main sunspot in group #1093 has split in two side-by-side spots looking like a pair of googly eyes. You might recall that 1093 was the region that kicked out a nice flare with possibilities for aurora for the northern U.S. While that failed to materialize, I wouldn’t count this interesting spot as washed up yet.