Every year since the end of July, the sky of the Northern Hemisphere is increasingly dotted with Perseid meteors. Its maximum falls on August 12-13, after which meteor activity begins to weaken and generally fades by the end of summer. Although this stream is not the most powerful, since it falls during the warm season, when many people spend evenings outdoors, it gets the fame of the “annual starfall”, which is regularly written about by the world media.
Since meteors belonging to the same swarm move in space and enter the Earth’s atmosphere in almost parallel trajectories, it seems to ground observers that they fly out from one point of the celestial sphere — the radiant. In this case, it is located in the constellation Perseus. Obviously, the higher it is above the horizon, the more meteors we will see. The Perseid radiant in the latitudes of Ukraine culminates almost at the zenith, but in mid-August it happens at about 6 o’clock in the morning, after sunrise. Therefore, the best time for their observations is the second half of the night, before the beginning of nautical twilight. Unfortunately, it is now during this period that a curfew is in effect in most Ukrainian regions. Practically the only way out in this case is to observe in the countryside or from a suburban recreation center, from a land with the most open horizon. This will simultaneously solve the problem of “light pollution” of the night sky by the lights of large cities.
Practice shows that most meteors can be seen if you look not in the direction of the radiant, but at a point approximately in the middle between it and the zenith. On August 12-13, at midnight, it will be located in a north-easterly direction at 65° above the horizon, not far from the star β Cassiopeiae (the top in the famous letter “M” of this constellation), and then it will gradually rise until the morning. In such conditions, it is quite convenient to observe lying down, or even better — in a chaise longue, with your head turned to the southwest.
In recent years, the activity of the Perseids has noticeably decreased due to the fact that their “parent” comet Swift-Tuttle (109P/Swift-Tuttle) is moving towards aphelion — the most distant point of the orbit from the Sun. But all the same, in the epoch of the maximum, this shower consistently “produces” about 50 meteors per hour. Information about the fluctuations of this parameter has a certain value for astronomers, allowing them to find out the distribution of matter in the outer regions of the Solar System. Meteor observations do not require special equipment — they only need a clear dark sky, good eyesight, a watch and a notebook with a pencil for notes (it is undesirable to use a laptop so as not to knock down the dark adaptation of the eyes). But if you have such an opportunity, even without scientific interest, it is worth spending a little time on a beautiful “heavenly show”. The Moon will absolutely not interfere with it: on August 13, a thin crescent moon will rise at about the second hour of the night and will almost not create unnecessary illumination. We also hope that enemy drones and missiles will not interfere in this process!
We’ve been previously writing about why it’s quite hard to see the powerful meteor shower η-Aquariids from the territory of Ukraine.
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