How to Observe Meteor Shower?

All you need to enjoy a meteor shower is just your naked eyes. No equipment is needed!

First, of course, you have to know when a meteor shower is going to put on a show. A good place to look up for the date and information on meteor showers is the International Meteor Organization site.

Theoretically, you can observe a show of meteor shower anywhere on Earth (as long as it’s night time). However, if you go to an unobstructed dark site – away from city lights or vehicle headlights – to observe, it’ll increase your chances to see more meteors because the dimmer ones will be visible and not washed out by light pollution.

But no matter how hard we tried to avoid man-made light polluters, there is one from nature that we can’t avoid – our Moon… especially when is anywhere near gibbous or full moon time.

Having said all that, in the end, the numbers of meteor visible will still have to depend on the weather.

If you wish to go to the dark to observe, please bring along some friends – it’ll definitely be merrier, but the most important point here is safety; it’s safer to have more people around.

When you reach the observing site, you may want to find a place that is not easily disturbed (or sometime easily “stepped”) by others. You can check your direction and use the star chart to find the location of the shower’s radiant in the sky.

Geminids by Erno Berko
This composite image of Geminids was recorded over four nights in 2007 by astronomer Erno Berko. Clearly seen from the image is that all the meteors were radiating from a point, i.e. the radiant. Source: APOD.

Actually, if you just want to see some meteors, you don’t really need to know where is the shower’s radiant. From the image above, we can see that the meteors do not always appear to begin at the radiant. The meteors usually already left the radiant by the time we saw them. It is just that when we trace back the route of the meteors, they seem to converge there.

So meteors actually will streak all over the night sky, not just only in the direction of the radiant. Conclusion: don’t stare right at the radiant; you surely will miss out a lot of meteors over your head.

If so, then what is that radiant for? The location of the radiant is useful when you want to know whether a particular meteor belongs to the shower you are observing or not. Trace back the route of the meteor – if it ends up at the radiant, then it belongs to the shower; if not, then it may be a sporadic meteor or belongs to other minor meteor shower that may also active during that time.

Knowing when the radiant will be above the horizon also will help to increase our chances of seeing more meteors. Other than that, I think for us who just want to enjoy a meteor shower show, the radiant is really not so important.

To make yourself comfortable during the observation, bring along a mat to lie down. Lying flat on the ground is the best position because like this we can cover the maximum area of the sky. This position is a bit “dangerous” though, because this is also the best position to fall asleep and the next thing you know might be the Sun rising. Try chit-chatting with friends, this will help to keep you awake, but make sure that your eyes are glue to the sky; you won’t want to miss the show.

Sometime it may be cold in the middle of the night, so a jacket or even a blanket may come in handy. Mosquito repellent is also something useful to bring along. Better still if you can prepare some foods and drinks to fill up your empty stomach during the night. How nice to have a cup of hot coffee in the middle of a cold night!

In a nutshell: know your timing, pick a good safe site, lie down, and enjoy the celestial fireworks!


~ by thChieh on December 12, 2008.

One Response to “How to Observe Meteor Shower?”

  1. […] Click here for some tips on how to observe meteor shower.  To learn more about meteor and meteor shower, go to Meteor Shower ABC. […]

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