Saturday, August 9, 2014

Stargazing: The Perseids and The Supermoon

Image via WikiCommons
If you are a stargazer, this month seems to be perfect for enjoying celestial wonders. This weekend, the Perseid Meteor Showers and a Supermoon are duking it out. The Supermoon will be prominent Sunday night and happens when the full moon is at its closest point to the Earth. Supermoons appear about 14% wider and 30% brighter than full moons when the moon is at the furthest point of its orbit.

EarthSky has a great explanation of the Supermoon including a couple of useful diagrams. The explanation is pretty easy to understand and quite interesting. A pretty handy resource!

The Perseid Meteor shower occurs each August as the Earth passes through the orbital path of the Comet Swift-Tuttle. While Earth is crossing the comet's orbit, debris from the comet slams into our atmosphere creating the shower. The Perseids are expected to be at their peak August 11, 12 and 13. However, the Supermoon may present a challenge in seeing them. EarthSky does have a great description of meteor shower. In our area, I know that the Vera Meineke Nature Center in Schaumburg will be holding a special viewing event tonight from 8:30PM-11:00PM. The event is free and a great way to learn about gazing at the wonders in our sky!

According to Mother Nature Network, August is a great month to see most of the planets---save Mercury. Mars and Saturn were more prominent during the beginning of the month and Venus and Jupiter will become so during the end of the month. Saturn will also feature in a formation at the end of the month. Mother Nature Network provides some additional information about how to spot these planets as well as the formations they will appear in in the sky.

I have only dabbled in stargazing myself, so I do not know too much. However, it is fun when you know there is a celestial spectacle to watch for! EarthSky gives some pretty easy to follow, easily applied explanations so I really need to keep up with them. The biggest key, of course, is to get away from densely populated areas to an open space where you don't have so much ambient light. The challenge can be quite fun when working as a family!

Happy Gazing!

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