Monday, August 5, 2013

Australian Perseid Meteor Shower - Morning August 13, 2013

Perseid radiant as seen from Darwin at 5:00 am local time, August the 13th, looking north.Perseid radiant as seen from Brisbane at 5:00 am local time, August the 13th, looking north. Note how much lower the radiant is.

The Perseid Meteor Shower runs from July 17–August 24, and peaks on the morning of Tuesday August 13 between 4:15 am-6:45 am AEST (that's August 12, 18h15m to 20h45m UT). Despite this being a quite reasonable meteor shower in the northern hemisphere, for most of Australia the radiant is below the horizon, and only the very occasional meteor will be seen shooting up from the northern horizon.

Anyone south of Brisbane will see only the occasional meteor, say maybe one or two per hour (or less), the further north of Brisbane you are, the more meteors you will see.

You can check predictions for your local area at the NASA meteor flux estimator (choose 7 Perseids and 12-13 August 2013). People around the latitude of Darwin have the best chance of seeing meteors, possibly as many as one every 2 minutes at the peak (see table below). Next is places with the latitude of Cairns, then with the latitude of Mackay (like Port Headland and Mt Isa), and the places with the latitude of Alice Springs (again,see table below). With the early crescent Moon in the evening sky, this should be a good time to see the Perseids.

To see the meteors, you will need to be up from around 3:00 am local time on the 13th (yes, a really horrible hour of the morning), with best views 4:00 am-5:30 am. The meteor shower will be located due North, with the radiant just above the northern horizon. Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky. Closer to the date of the peak there will be live ZHR reporting from the International Meteor Organisation.

When you get up, allow at least 5 minutes for your eyes to adjust, and be patient, it may be several minutes before you are rewarded with you first meteor, then a couple will come along in quick succession. Choose a viewing spot where you can see a large swathe of sky without trees or buildings getting in the way, or with streetlights getting in your eyes. The darker the spot the better (but do be sensible, don't choose a spot in an unsalubrious park for example).

A lawn chair or something similar will make your observing comfortable (or a picnic rug spread on the ground and a nice pillow), and having a Thermos of hot coffee, tea or chocolate to swig while watching will increase your comfort. (Here's some hints on dark adaption of your eyes so you can see meteors better).

The following table show the peak rates at around 5 am local time on the mornings of the 12th, 13 and 14th of August for a number of cities. Rates will be similar at the same latitude as these cities, and rates will be intermediate at spots between these cities.

TownMorning August 12Morning August 13Morning August 14
Alice Springs7 meteors/hr13 meteors/hr8 meteors/hr
Brisbane4 meteors/hr8 meteors/hr4 meteors/hr
Cairns13 meteors/hr22 meteors/hr14 meteors/hr
Darwin18 meteors/hr30 meteors/hr18 meteors/hr
Mackay9 meteors/hr16 meteors/hr10 meteors/hr

Note, those of you who have Stellarium, the meteor shower you see when you turn on the Meteor button in the star and planet visibility dialogue is the Leonids, the radiant is only correct for 18 November, it only coincidentally is vaguely in the area of the Perseids.

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