Monday, August 10, 2015

The 2015 Perseid Meteor Shower is Underway



Comet Swift-Tuttle only passes the earth and circles the sun once every 133 years, but the earth passes through its trail of dust every year.  The debris field is large, so Perseid meteors may be seen on nights from July 17 through August 24.  The earth passes through the most dense portion of the comet's dust trail on the night of August 12-13, so that is when the peak, or maximum hourly rate of meteors, will be seen.  The rates will also be high throughout the August 11 - 14 period, so you can look for Perseid meteors any or all nights this week.

Below is a video that I assembled in 2009 from several nights photographing the Perseid meteor shower.  It is a time-lapse video that condenses several hours of meteor activity into seconds of video:


Not everything that moves in the video are meteors; the meteors are the brief streaks of light, the slower ones are airplanes.  As you see the Milky Way and stars move, that is from the rotation of the earth.

You can also see haze that is smoke from forest fires that year.  I may have similar challenges this year due to the fires currently raging during California's drought.  Already the photo I captured above from last Saturday night is darker than usual, due to smoke from a wildfire.