The Perseid Meteor Shower is one of my favourite times of the year, there is nothing like getting out of the city on a summer night to watch a star-filled sky as the bright Perseids streak across in vivid colours.
The peak of the meteor shower is on the morning of the 13th August from midnight till before dawn in Ireland, at the peak the rate of "shooting stars" can be up to 100 per hour, this year the moon will set on the Irish east coast around 19:45GMT
on the 12th of August, and rise again at 02:00GMT on the 13th of August at 10% illumination, so any lunar glare should not hamper the show too much when it rises late in the night,
and could add to some great photos with the moon...
Viewing the night before and the night after is highly recommended too. As as the earth moves into the dust trail of comet Swift-Tuttle the meteors can be seen from late July until late August
but the rates are less the further away from the 13th you are.
Below I have added some viewing tips for the shower and some links to help you along the way.
Viewing Tips for the Perseid Meteor Shower
1. Move as far from city lights and light pollution as possible.
2. Check the cloud forecast in the area you are planning to view from.
3. Dress in warm comfortable clothes, the clear summer nights are chilly!
4. Bring a sun lounger or blanket to sit on.
5. Bring a flask and some snacks.
It goes without saying that light pollution is one of the worst enemies for viewing the night sky, during a meteor shower only the brightest meteors can be seen from the city and the further you move away from bright lights will enhance your viewing experience. The West coast of Ireland is an ideal location with the Kerry International Dark Sky Reserve and many parts of westerly Galway and Mayo being perfect locations for viewing. If a trip out West isn't on the agenda there are many places within an hour of Dublin that the meteor viewing will be vastly improved. Try to find an open location with good clearance all around you, and preferably a view of the horizon to the East. Here is a link to a Light Pollution Map I use to help you find darker sky locations close to your area.
Checking the cloud forecast is the most important aspect of dark sky viewing, it is the reason I always have two or three locations set out a few days beforehand. Cloud is one of the hardest weather aspects to predict especially in Ireland! My personal format has always been to check the forecast 96 hours out to get an idea, then twice a day up until the day I plan to view. I won't go into the many weather charts I look over but I have added two links below to help along your way nearer the time of the shower. The first is of course is Met Eireann it is very easy to check the updated forecast on your chosen location. For a realtime cloud update on the day I'm planning to view the Perseids I use Sat 24, which is also good after sunset if there's a chance of some cloud as it has an infrared setting for some great sunset photography.
The Milky Way and a Perseid from Newcastle Beach in Wicklow.
It really does get quite chilly for some people on a clear summer night, warm comfortable clothes might not feel needed if it's 18c in Dublin at 9pm but it is a very different feeling at 2am in a valley in Wicklow or on the coast in Kerry. I usually wear a few layers that can be removed and added as needed.
Looking up at the sky for so long does put strain on your neck, a sun lounger or blanket in an open space is perfect to lay back and watch the Perseid Meteor Shower. Remember the Perseids originate from the North East sky as Perseus rises around midnight but they can be seen all across the sky and before midnight you can be lucky enough to catch an "Earthgrazer" while the radiant if the shower is close to the horizon.
Drinks and Snacks:
In between taking photos there is nothing I like more than a starlight picnic! And a flask with a warm drink is perfect to keep the summer night chill out while enjoying the show.
A Perseid Meteor above the Irish Sea from Brittas Bay.
Also Visible in the Night Sky this Summer
The Delta Aquariid Meteor Shower peaks on July 29th, and while the meteors are not at the rate of the Perseids, it is still an enjoyable summer watch and has a wide date range. Viewing is directed towards the south, near the horizon.
Also as August starts, Orion or "The Ghost of the Shimmering Summer Dawn" to quote the 1924 poem by Sophia C. Prentice will return to our northern skies just before sunrise. Orion has always been a wonderful and easy constellation to view, this year there will be much more emphasis on the constellation due to the changes of the super red giant Betelgeuse (The top left star as you look at the constellation of Orion).
When Betelgeuse (pronounced like the film Beetlejuice) goes supernova it could be as bright as the full moon, and might be visible in the daytime skies! This could happen tomorrow or 100,000 years away, a recent Paper Published suggests not thousands of years but tens of years...
Anyway, Orion and Betelgeuse deserve their own blog post, and I'll try to get to that before they rise in the morning sky, but do keep an eye out for the orange giant at the top left of the constellation in the early morning.