Falling Skies: August is Meteor Season!

Falling Skies by Heather Higham

Falling Skies by Heather Higham

Our friends at EarthSky share that August is THE month for meteor watching, with two major showers:

The Delta Aquariid meteor shower is long and rambling. You might catch a Delta Aquariid anytime from about July 12 to August 23 each year. The nominal peak falls on or near July 29. But don’t pay too much attention to that date; the shower typically provides a decent number of meteors for some days after and before it. In 2021, a bright waning gibbous moon will wash out a good number of Delta Aquariids in late July. As we move into early August, a much fainter waning crescent moon will be less intrusive. As always happens, when the Perseid meteor shower is rising to its peak (mornings of August 11, 12 and 13), the Delta Aquariids will still be flying, too.

In the Northern Hemisphere, we rank the August Perseids as our all-time favorite meteor shower … No matter where you live worldwide, the 2021 Perseid meteor shower will probably produce the greatest number of meteors on the mornings of August 11, 12 and 13. On the peak mornings in 2021 – in the early morning hours, when the most meteors will be flying – there’ll be no moon to ruin on the show.

Click those links for viewing tips & happy sky watching!

Heather took this photo back in 2016 on Loon Lake in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. See more in her Night Skies gallery. For sure follow her on Instagram @SnapHappyMichigan & view and purchase her work on her website.

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Perseid Explosion at Day Farm

Definitely watch Ken’s Perseid video at the end!

D H Day Farm ... perseid meteor shower

D H Day Farm … perseid meteor shower, photo by Ken Scott

I’ve shared this before, but Space.com has an interesting story about how the upcoming Perseid Meteor shower (peak August 11-13) came to be known as “The Tears of St. Lawrence” and also some of the science behind this annual August sky show:

Laurentius, a Christian deacon, is said to have been martyred by the Romans in 258 AD on an iron outdoor stove. It was in the midst of this torture that Laurentius cried out: “I am already roasted on one side and, if thou wouldst have me well cooked, it is time to turn me on the other.”

The saint’s death was commemorated on his feast day, Aug. 10. King Phillip II of Spain built his monastery place the “Escorial,” on the plan of the holy gridiron. And the abundance of shooting stars seen annually between approximately Aug. 8 and 14 have come to be known as St. Lawrence’s “fiery tears.”

…We know today that these meteors are actually the dross of the Swift-Tuttle comet. Discovered back in 1862, this comet takes approximately 130 years to circle the Sun. With each pass, it leaves fresh debris — mostly the size of sand grains with a few peas and marbles tossed in.

Every year during mid-August, when the Earth passes close to the orbit of Swift-Tuttle, the bits and pieces ram into our atmosphere at approximately 37 miles per second (60 kps) and create bright streaks of light.

Read on for more including diagrams and viewing tips.

Ken Scott captured these Perseid meteors last August over a 2 1/2 hour period at the D.H. Day Farm in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. He says that the barn is lit by rogue lightning and that this is a composite of many meteor images, where each photo is rotated around the north star so that the ‘point of origin’ of the shower can be seen better. He understands it visually but not scientifically – anyone have a simple explanation for him?

View his photo bigger, see more in his Skies Above slideshow, and view and purchase his work at kenscottphotography.com.

Perseid Meteor Composite

Perseid Meteor Composite over Cathead Point

Perseid Meteors … over Cathead Point, photo by Ken Scott

The annual Perseid Meteor Shower peaks August 11-13 and is the closest thing to a sure thing in when you’re talking meteor showers. The Perseids kick out 10+ meteors per hour at peak, and the darker your setting, the more you will see. EarthSky has detailed tips & diagrams about this summer favorite in Everything you need to know: Perseid meteor shower:

Start watching in the second week of August, when the Delta Aquarid meteor shower is rambling along steadily, reliably producing meteors each night. Then keep watching in the second week of August, when the Perseids are rising to a peak. The Perseid shower is known to rise gradually to a peak, then fall off rapidly afterwards. In early August (and even through the peak nights), you’ll see them combine with meteors from the Delta Aquarid shower. Overall, the meteors will be increasing in number from early August onward, and better yet, the moonlight will diminish until the new moon on August 14, 2015.

Don’t rule out early evenings. As a general rule, the Perseid meteors tend to be few and far between at nightfall and early evening. Yet, if fortune smiles upon you, you could catch an earthgrazer – a looooong, slow, colorful meteor traveling horizontally across the evening sky. Earthgrazer meteors are rare but most exciting and memorable, if you happen to spot one. Perseid earthgrazers can only appear at early to mid-evening, when the radiant point of the shower is close to the horizon.

As evening deepens into late night, and the meteor shower radiant climbs higher in the sky, more and more Perseid meteors streak the nighttime. The meteors don’t really start to pick up steam until after midnight, and usually don’t bombard the sky most abundantly until the wee hours before dawn. You may see 50 or so meteors per hour in a dark sky.

An open sky is essential because these meteors fly across the sky in many different directions and in front of numerous constellations. If you trace the paths of the Perseid meteors backward, you’d find they come from a point in front of the constellation Perseus. But once again, you don’t need to know Perseus or any other constellation to watch this or any meteor shower.

Read on at EarthSky for lots more and I hope you get a chance to enjoy Michigan after dark this week – it’s worth it!!

View Ken’s August 2012 composite of 8 meteors taken over an hour at the Grand Traverse Lighthouse on Cathead Bay bigger, see more in his massive Skies Above slideshow and head over to Ken Scott Photography on Facebook for a Perseids photo from last night!

PS: You can see a timelapse clip from this night on YouTube too!

2014 Perseid Meteor Shower

Sleeping Bear Persied

Sleeping Bear Perseids, photo by Kenneth Snyder

Without question the best meteor shower of the summer in Michigan is the Perseids, EarthSky’s Everything you need to know about the Perseid Meteor Shower has (predictably) all kinds of details and diagrams to help you get the most out of this annual display. The most important thing is to start watching now as the August supermoon is full this weekend.

Every year, from around July 17 to August 24, our planet Earth crosses the orbital path of Comet Swift-Tuttle, the parent of the Perseid meteor shower. Debris from this comet litters the comet’s orbit, but we don’t really get into the thick of the comet rubble until after the first week of August. The bits and pieces from Comet Swift-Tuttle slam into the Earth’s upper atmosphere at some 210,000 kilometers (130,000 miles) per hour, lighting up the nighttime with fast-moving Perseid meteors. If our planet happens to pass through an unusually dense clump of meteoroids – comet rubble – we’ll see an elevated number of meteors.

…The swift-moving and often bright Perseid meteors frequently leave persistent trains – ionized gas trails lasting for a few moments after the meteor has already gone. Watch for these meteors to streak the nighttime in front of the age-old, lore-laden constellations from late night until dawn as we approach the second weekend in August. The Perseids should put out a few dozen meteors per hour in the wee hours of the mornings of August 11, 12 and 13.

Read on for lots more.

View his photo big as the sky and see more in his Sleeping Bear Dunes slideshow.

More meteors on Michigan in Pictures!

Chasing the Perseids at Bond Falls

Chasing the Perseids

Milky Way over Milky Falls with a dash of Perseids, photo by Like The Ocean

“I am beginning to love the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.”
~Sathya R.

I hope that you had a chance to catch the annual show that is the Perseid Meteor Shower. In Chasing the Perseids at his blog Like the Ocean, Saytha writes:

45 hours on the road with just few hours of sleep, in search of that one spot to capture the Perseids. The lashing rain, the forecasted aurora that never turned up and the hide and seek with the clouds – it was all fun. Was it all worth it, you bet! The road trip took me to one of the darkest skies of Mid Western US – Bond Falls. Would like to share with you a moment in time from that night. This was one of the two meteor I was able to capture on frame, but loved how everything came together in this shot. I do love when a plan comes together :)

The deafening sound of 500 gallons of water / second from 50 feet
The tranquil silence of the dark night
Milky way adorning the skies
A (Perseids) meteor fireball streaking across the horizon
Definitely a moment of serenity and one I would cherish!

Read on at Like the Ocean Photography, check this photo out bigger and see more in his awesome Nightscape slideshow.

More about Bond Falls at Michigan in Pictures.

2013 Perseid Meteor Shower

Perseids & the Milky Way

Perseids & the Milky Way, photo by gkretovic

EarthSky.org’s Meteor Shower Guide explains:

The Perseid meteor shower is perhaps the most beloved meteor shower of the year for the Northern Hemisphere. The shower builds gradually to a peak, often produces 50 to 100 meteors per hour in a dark sky at the peak, and, for us in the Northern Hemisphere, this shower comes when the weather is warm. The Perseids tend to strengthen in number as late night deepens into midnight, and typically produce the most meteors in the wee hours before dawn. They radiate from a point in the constellation Perseus the Hero, but, as with all meteor shower radiant points, you don’t need to know Perseus to watch the shower; instead, the meteors appear in all parts of the sky. They are typically fast and bright meteors. They frequently leave persistent trains.

Every year, you can look for the Perseids around August 10-13. They combine with the Delta Aquarid shower to produce the year’s most dazzling display of shooting stars. In 2013, the Perseid meteors will streak across the short summer nights – August 10-13 – from late night until dawn, with little to no interference from the waxing crescent moon. Plus the moon will be near the planet Saturn in the evening hours, giving a colorful prelude to late-night Perseid show. Best mornings to look: August 11, 12 and 13.

Check out Everything you need to know about the Perseid Meteor Shower on EarthSky and also don’t  miss Star Trails, the Perseid Meteor Shower and the Tears of St. Lawrence in the Michigan in Pictures archives!

Greg took this shot in the UP – I’m thinking that’s the Nahma Burner on Big Bay de Noc at the right. Check it out bigger and see more in his stunning Upper Peninsula of Michigan slideshow.

More meteors on Michigan in Pictures.