New Meteor Shower on Tap Tonight: Page 2


Complete darkness is best for observing meteors. With light pollution so widespread, it's getting harder to find a truly dark sky. Use the bowl of the Little Dipper to help determine how dark the sky in your area is. The brightest star in the Little Dipper is Kochab, a second-magnitude star. The next brightest is Pherkad, at third magnitude. The next brightest star is fourth-magnitude, and the next brightest is fifth-magnitude. So, if you can see all four stars in the bowl, you're in a pretty dark observing site. Keep in mind that for an increasing number of locations, only Kochab and Pherkad are visible, meaning you're likely to miss many of the fainter streaks.

Meteor showers are beautiful! Here's how to catch shooting stars.

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It really doesn't make much of a difference in which direction you face. You just don't want trees, buildings or sky glow blocking your field of view. Gazing directly overhead (at the zenith) might be best. Your clenched fist held at arm's length measures roughly 10 degrees; some groups recommend looking about 60 degrees up in the direction of the radiant; the radiant for the Comet 209P/LINEAR meteors is in the dim constellation of Camelopardalis, which will be located about one-third up in the sky from the north-northwest horizon.

Use a portable radio to stay updated on the weather. Before changing to what might be a better site, however, note whether the cloudiness is spotty. Sometimes, there are lengthy intervals when few meteors can be seen. Of course, hourly counts mean little if your sky is not entirely clear. (How to Pronounce the Camelopardalids (Video))

If you just want to wait for the occasional shooting star, that's fine. But it's much more fun and interesting to make a useful meteor count that can be reported to the International Meteor Organization (IMO) and the American Meteor Society (AMS) to be compared with other people's results. You'll need a watch or a clock, a notepad, a pen or pencil, a red-covered flashlight and, if you have it, a tape recorder so you can dictate notes without taking your eyes off the sky.

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