New Meteor Shower on Tap Tonight: Page 3

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Meteors have a way of coming in bunches that defy counting, magnitude estimating and plotting all at the same time. Often, people notice what some call the "clumping effect" — meteors arrive in groups of two or three, and will fall within a matter of seconds, followed by a lull period of several minutes or more before the sky again bears fruit. Some observers say this is an illusion; if you are observing alone, just make hourly counts and estimate magnitudes. It's helpful to use a hand counter to click off the number of meteors you see.

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Meteor observing can also be a fun social affair. But if you observe in a group, do not combine results! Group counts are worthless. If you're in a group, assign each observer a limited program. Every person should observe as if alone, preferably watching a different section of the sky. Try not to be influenced by somebody who might yell out something like, "Whoa, look at that!"

The simplest method is to just count the meteors you see. If a few obstructions intrude, they should block no more than 20 percent of your view, and you must note the percentage of the view they're covering. The same applies to clouds.

If you take any breaks, note the times each begins and ends. Your vigil should total at least an hour, not counting breaks, and preferably longer. Ever hour, separate your observing records with a time annotation.

For more details, check out the IMO website at http://www.imo.net/ and the American Meteor Society website at http://www.amsmeteors.org/.

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