mindfulness star gazing

stargazing: Perseid meteor shower peak 2020

How To Watch A Meteor Shower

The Perseids light up the night sky when Earth runs into cosmic space junk left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle. I woke up at 4 am to gaze at the sky and watch the meteor shower. I was expecting a beautiful display of sparkling lights shooting down from a dark starry sky. Maybe I watch too many Disney movies or my expectations were a tad too high. I saw two meteors at best lasting a second each. They were gone with a blink of the eye.

1. Plan ahead.

Find out when the prak will occur. I use Sky Guide, an application that keeps me informed about comets and meteor showers. This year the peak occurred on August 11 and August 12. Once you know when the peak will occur, dress for the weather. Bring a comfortable lounge chair. You might be waiting a long time to get a glimpse.

2. Find a dark place.

Make sure you have a clear view of the whole night sky. Light pollution ruins the moment. You can use applications to locate a dark sky.. For instance, I use Light Pollution Map-Sky to find places with minimal light pollution. I simply type in my address and it tells me where I should drive to in order to get a great view.

This year the peak coincided with light of the last quarter moon reflecting back. This meant that the meteors would appear short lived. I only saw 2 meteors lasting a secon. Perhaps seeking a dark place with minimal light pollution would have done the job! Supposedly, in a dark place you could have seen up to 50 meteors per hour. 

Remember to get adjusted to the dark. It can take 15 to 20 minutes to get used to it. Once your eyes are used to the dark, it is time to look at the radiant.

3. Map out the sky. 

To find the Perseids I use an application to map out the constellations. I use Time & Date for location information in my area to find the radiant. A compass comes in handy to find the direction where to start looking. Once, I have the radiant I simply look up and enjoy the meteor shower.

4. Watch the meteors.

This the time that you chose to be mindful and look up at the sky. Don’t get distracted by social media. It is time to be present and admire nature.

star gazing

stargazing: comet Neowise and astropoetry

Photo by Ganapathy Kumar. Arizona.
Photo by Lukáš Vaňátko. Czech Republic.

Astropoetry: Haiku

Graceful morning sun
Slumbers at night, a comet
Strikes beyond this world

Frequently Asked Questions About Spotting Comet Neowise

  1. How do you find the comet?

Comet Neowise can be found by looking at the northwest sky around thirty minutes after sunset. Make sure that you have an unobstructed view of the sky. In other words, steer clear of skyscrapers, clouds, and light pollution.

Look slightly below Ursa Major and you will find a faint spot. This blurred spot is the comet.

2. Can I see it with the naked eye?

The comet is best viewed with binoculars or a telescope. It is difficult to appreciate with the naked eye.

If you are having trouble spotting the comet, use sky applications to view the star positions on your smartphone. Augmented virtual reality makes spotting the constellations easy.

3. Am I able to take a picture?

If you are thinking of photographing the comet, you should give it a try. My photographer friend in Miami was able to capture the tail. However, my friend in Vermont who lives in a rural area was able to capture the double tail. It is totally possible to take a long exposure photograph of the comet with best results in low light pollution areas. Make sure to have a stable tripod.

4. What camera settings should I use?

Camera settings to start out with: ISO 5000, F2.8, and around 3 seconds exposure time. Preferably, use a prime lens. Some photographers favor a 70 mm lens for comet photography.

Others prefer using their iPhone attached to their telescope.

For more pictures of Comet Neowise, check out NASA’s Heliospheric Observatory.

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