Observational Astronomy

Persieds – Day Two

After our Friday night viewing session at the observatory, I was very excited to go back out there and watch for meteors again! Lynn successfully shamed me into trying the meteor observing program from the Astronomical League. She made sure I brought paper, pencil and a watch. So – once again we loaded up the car with blankets, chairs, jackets, gloves and yes – hand warmers. This time my youngest decided to tag along with us. Before we left I made sure she knew the rules – no complaining about being cold, tired or bored!

As soon as we got out of the car I knew it was going to be a good night. Before we even closed our car doors a bright meteor streaked above us! Everyone ooooooed in unison and we hurried to set up our chairs for the night. The sky was once again clear, and the Milky Way was visible.  Facing east, looking towards Cassiopeia, we lined up our chairs and settled in. I no sooner had my paper and pencil ready when the show began!

I started recording my observations at 10:30, and by 11:30 I had recorded 20 meteors! Those were just the ones that I saw! It seemed for awhile that I was always looking in the wrong direction! One would go through the big dipper, then another near the horizon in the south east. “Mom – did you see that one?”, “no”. That was an exchange we had way too many times! Things started picking up and I started sweeping the sky rather than looking steady at one area. That seemed to work better. By 12:30 I had 55 total sightings, including the most exciting meteor I had ever seen – a Bolide! It seemed to go straight down from Cassiopeia and go for about 30 degrees. Then it seemed to explode in a flash of light! “What the heck was that?” I gasped. “That was a Bolide!” I was almost too excited to write it down! I wanted the image to be permanently fixed in my brain. “Did you see that?” I asked my daughter. I could tell even before she answered that she had! She was grinning from ear to ear! It was a great moment for me as a mom sharing something with her daughter, and as an Astro Babe experiencing another spectacular astronomical event. This one was for the books, that’s for sure!

By 1:30 am I had recorded around 80 Perseid’s! By then the crescent moon was rising, with Jupiter and Venus at its side. Very beautiful, but even the cresent moon was enough to wash out the Milky Way. As if on cue, we all started packing up our things and loading up the cars. My daughter was a trooper! She followed the rules, even though she had started to get uncomfortable and tired.

All the way home I kept thinking of all the meteors we were missing! Part of me wanted to pull over and watch for another hour or so, but the thought of my warm bed and soft pillow kept me driving.


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