The annual Perseid Meteor shower is considered to be the best and brightest meteor display of the year. This year’s shower will be especially good because it is happening when the moon is less than 1/4 full and the moon will be setting early in the evening for the next few days. The moon’s glow makes faint meteors invisible and bright meteors less impressive than they appear in a dark sky, so the lack of significant moonlight should makes 2013 a very good year for observing this meteor shower.
The actual peak of 2013’s shower will occur during the day on Monday, August 12th, but the shower will be quite active for several days before and after the peak.
The meteors can be seen anywhere in the sky, but they will all appear to be traveling away from the constellation Perseus, which is why they are called the Perseids. Perseus will be in the Northeastern area of the sky at Midnight.
To best observe the shower, find a comfortable position flat on your back. An air mattress on the ground is a great option, but a fully reclining lawn chair or even a blanket on the ground works as well.
You must allow your eyes about 30 minutes to adjust fully to the darkness after being exposed to any bright lights.
The shower is best seen after midnight, but some should be visible before then as well.
It’s best to be away outside of any city lights if you are able to, but I did find a nice location on the edge of Mineral Point to observe. The Pendarvis Merry Christmas Mine Hill has a nice observing location at the circle loop past station #5 (see the map below). Go past the big oak tree and into the circular turnaround. Be sure to stay on the path as there are some large ant hills in the prairie. This location’s vegetation blocks stray light from the city, but still allows a most of the night sky to be viewed. The Merry Christmas Mine Hill path remains open all night.
Use caution when walking the trail at night- it is uneven in places. Be sure to use a flashlight if you walk the trail, but please turn off any white light flashlights when you reach the Oak tree at station 5 in case other observers are on the hill so you don’t affect their night vision. Red flashlights are great tools for stargazers, as red light does not affect your night vision very much compared to white lights. I also should mention the trail is not handicapped accessible and there are no restroom facilities on the trail.
I hope you enjoy the show!
– Contributed by John Wunderlin