You may have heard that the annual Perseid meteor shower peaks this
weekend, right along with the full moon. Sigh!
Sadly, the best time to look for meteors might have been last weekend,
when the moon set about midnight. The Perseids have a very broad peak,
so anytime a week before or after you're likely to see some Perseid
meteors. Next weekend the moon will be rising at midnight, again bad timing.
I'm often asked "where is the best place in Pasadena | Monrovia |
Glendale | Los Angeles | my town to watch the meteor shower?" The answer
is usually your own back yard. Any spot that is unobstructed by trees or
buildings, and has no lights that you can see, is a fine spot to watch
meteors. They are equally likely to appear in all directions, so any
direction is fine as well. More will be seen closer to the horizon,
where you're looking through more air, than looking straight up.
The best time to look is after 1:00 a.m. and before dawn twilight, when
your part of the earth is facing into the particle stream.
The problem is that within Los Angeles county, you're not likely to see
many meteors, indeed probably none.
From a truly dark site on a moonless night, the Perseids sometimes have
a rate approaching 100 meteors per hour, most of them faint streaks.
From within L.A. county, with or without moon, the overall sky glow
will wipe out 98 of those 100 meteors. You may catch a lucky bright one
if you can watch for an hour.
From a dark site with dry air, the moon will probably reduce the rate
by half. The glow of the moon will wipe out the fainter meteors, which
are the most numerous.
Last year there was no moon for the Perseids, and Jane traveled to one
of the darkest spots in the western U.S., Amboy Crater, about 200 miles
from home in Monrovia. She had a great night of counting meteors, seeing
a peak of 43 Perseids between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m.
She wrote a great report of her session on her blog here:
I hope I didn't ruin your meteor watching plans, but this is one I'll
sleep through. :)
Morris Jones, Monrovia, CA