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Saturday, August 09, 2014

 

Australian Perseid Meteor Shower - Morning August 13, 2014

Perseid radiant as seen from Darwin at 5:00 am local time, August the 13th, looking north.Perseid radiant as seen from Brisbane at 5:00 am local time, August the 13th, looking north. Note how much lower the radiant is.

The Perseid Meteor Shower runs from July 17–August 24, and peaks on the morning of Wednesday August 13 between 11 am-2:00 pm AEST (00h to 03h on August 13 UT).  Despite this being a quite reasonable meteor shower in the northern hemisphere, for most of Australia the radiant is below the horizon, and only the very occasional meteor will be seen shooting up from the northern horizon.

This year is particularly bad, not only does the peak occur after sunrise, but the nearly full Moon is not far from the radiant on the best nights.

Anyone south of Brisbane will see only the occasional meteor, say maybe one or two per hour (or less), the further north of Brisbane you are, the more meteors you will see.

You can check predictions for your local area at the NASA meteor flux estimator (choose 7 Perseids and 12-13 August 2014). People around the latitude of Darwin have the best chance of seeing meteors, possibly as many as one every 10 minutes at the peak (see table below). Next is places with the latitude of Cairns, then with the latitude of Mackay (like Port Headland and Mt Isa), and the places with the latitude of Alice Springs (again,see table below).

To see the meteors, you will need to be up from around 3:00 am local time on the 13th (yes, a really horrible hour of the morning), with best views 4:00 am-5:30 am. The meteor shower will be located due North, with the radiant just above the northern horizon. Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.

When you get up, allow at least 5 minutes for your eyes to adjust, and be patient, it may be several minutes before you are rewarded with you first meteor, then a couple will come along in quick succession. Choose a viewing spot where you can see a large swathe of sky without trees or buildings getting in the way, or with streetlights getting in your eyes. The darker the spot the better (but do be sensible, don't choose a spot in an unsalubrious park for example).

A lawn chair or something similar will make your observing comfortable (or a picnic rug spread on the ground and a nice pillow), and having a Thermos of hot coffee, tea or chocolate to swig while watching will increase your comfort. (Here's some hints on dark adaption of your eyes so you can see meteors better).

UPDATE: for some reason the original table edits failed, and last years rates went out. This is now fixed.

The following table show the peak rates at around 5 am local time on the mornings of the 12th, 13 and 14th of August for a number of cities under dark sky conditions. Rates will be similar at the same latitude as these cities, and rates will be intermediate at spots between these cities.

TownMorning August 12Morning August 13Morning August 14
Alice Springs3 meteors/hr4 meteors/hr3 meteors/hr
Brisbane2 meteors/hr2 meteors/hr2 meteors/hr
Cairns5 meteors/hr7 meteors/hr6 meteors/hr
Darwin6 meteors/hr9 meteors/hr8 meteors/hr
Mackay4 meteors/hr5 meteors/hr5 meteors/hr

Note, those of you who have Stellarium, in version 13 they have added meteor shower radiants (rates set in the planets dialogue, F4). However the Perseids don't seem to work from Australia.

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Watch Free Perseids Meteor Shower 2014 Live Stream @

http://w.atch.me/I58f9p
 
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