How to watch the Perseid meteor shower tonight

The key to watching meteors is to be comfortable and keep your gaze on the sky!

One of the good things about meteors is that you don’t need any equipment-just your eyes and a bit of patience. Even in a so-called ’meteor shower’, it is rare to get more than one meteor a minute; don’t be surprised if you see nothing for five or ten minutes, then two meteors in a row.

The key to watching meteors is being comfortable and keeping your gaze on the sky. Dress warmly, because in the middle of the night and early hours of the morning, it can be quite cold. Lie on the ground on a rug, with a sleeping bag or blanket, or sit on a reclining garden chair so you can spend as much time as possible looking up without craning your neck.

Standing and looking up for long periods can be uncomfortable and will reduce your chances of seeing those ‘wow’ meteors. Try to keep your gaze on the sky for as long as possible, many people have missed that perfect meteor when they looked away. This is very annoying, especially when everyone else saw it but you didn’t!


Time for my favorite meteor shower!

Tonight – August 11, 2015 – it’s time to watch the Perseid meteor shower. The moon is out of the way, so the meteors should be flying! This shower is often our best meteor shower of the year, and it’s definitely a sky highlight of Northern Hemisphere summers. At its peak, the Perseids often rain down 50 to 100 or more meteors per hour. To see the most meteors, you will want to watch in the hours between midnight and dawn. Which dates are best? We recommend watching all three mornings around the peak – the mornings (not the evenings) of August 12, 13 and 14. If you can just watch one, the morning of August 13 probably will feature the most meteors for those with clear, dark country skies.

Look to the northeast, but there should be meteors all over the sky.


Space photo of the day–Dark Side of the Moon

A NASA camera aboard the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite captured a unique view of the moon as it moved in front of the sunlit side of Earth last month. The series of test images shows the fully illuminated “dark side” of the moon that is never visible from Earth.

The images were captured by NASA’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC), a four megapixel CCD camera and telescope on the DSCOVR satellite orbiting 1 million miles from Earth. From its position between the sun and Earth, DSCOVR conducts its primary mission of real-time solar wind monitoring for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).


And the answer is 42

The question: How fast is the universe expanding?

Scientists studying more than 140,000 extremely bright galaxies have calculated the expansion of the universe with unprecedented accuracy.

The distant galaxies, known as quasars, serve as a “standard ruler” to map density variations in the universe. Physicists were able to extend their calculations almost twice as far back in time as has been previously accomplished.

Using the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS), two teams of physicists have improved on scientists’ understanding of the mysterious dark energy that drives the accelerating universe. By nearly tripling the number of quasars previously studied, as well as implementing a new technique, the scientists were able to calculate the expansion rate to 42 miles (68 kilometers) per second per 1 million light-years with greater precision, while looking farther back in time.

Douglas Adams fans (and Google users) are not surprised.


Meteor shower (storm?) tonight!

Tonight will mark the first time Earth has crossed the path of remnants of Comet209P/LINEAR, which should yield a fantastic display. The peak should be about 1-3 AM CDT, but the whole thing should last until the sun comes up.

For this brand new, never-before-seen shower, astronomers are predicting from 30 to perhaps hundreds of meteors an hour at peak. Likely, these meteors will be a plodding 12 miles per second. In contrast, Perseid meteors (August) scoot along at 25 miles per second and the Leonid meteors (November) zip through our heavens at 45 miles per second. Slow meteors mean they will look like a bright star falling.

The radiant should be to the north, out of Camelopardalis (The Giraffe), but really all you have to do is look up. It should be quite a show.


Space Pic of the Day

A rose made of galaxies.

In celebration of the 21st anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope’s deployment into space, astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., pointed Hubble’s eye to an especially photogenic group of interacting galaxies called Arp 273.

The larger of the spiral galaxies, known as UGC 1810, has a disk that is tidally distorted into a rose-like shape by the gravitational tidal pull of the companion galaxy below it, known as UGC 1813. A swath of blue jewels across the top is the combined light from clusters of intensely bright and hot young blue stars. These massive stars glow fiercely in ultraviolet light.


Meteor storm?

Meteor showers are fairly regular events in the annual astronomy calendar, but Earth could be in for a surprise on May 24 when it encounters a century-old comet stream that it has never encountered before.

The stream was created by Comet 209P/LINEAR, which was discovered in 2004 by the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research project, and it just so happens that this year our planet’s orbit and comet stream are positioned just right for an interplanetary rendezvous. And if some forecasters are correct, this month could see a celestial fireworks display, potentially even outshining the famous Perseid meteor shower that peaks in August.


Another class M planet, “only” 500 light-years away

A team of astrophysicists at the SETI Institute and NASA’s Ames Research Center has just reached a major milestone in the search for life-supporting planets outside our solar system. For the first time, they have discovered an Earth-sized planet nestled in the temperate, liquid-water supporting distance from its star—the so-called habitable zone.

The research team estimates that Kepler-186f is only about 10 percent larger than Earth. It orbits its star every 130 days, and inhabits the chillier end of its star’s habitable zone.