Tweeteor shower

By Phil Plait | August 10, 2009 11:30 am

On the night of Tuesday/Wednesday August 11/12, the annual Perseid meteor shower will peak. If you find a dark spot and go out after midnight, you should see up to 60 or so meteors zinging across the sky per hour. This year is not as great as previous years, since the Moon will be up almost all night and washing out the sky somewhat, but if you make the effort I’m sure you’ll see quite a few shooting stars.

Perseid image courtesy
aresauburn™’s Flickr stream,
CC licensed.

For the 2007 Perseids I wrote up a post called 12 Things You Need To Watch the Perseid Meteors, and nothing really important has changed since then, so reading that will give you a good guide on what you need to do if you want to watch the show.

One thing that has changed since then, though, is the advent of Twitter! It has a lot of uses, including those astronomical and meteorical: the Newbury Astronomy Society has started Twitter Meteorwatch, where you can follow the Perseids online, get links to live webcams, and ask questions about the shower as well. Just use the hashtag #Meteorwatch when tweeting.

If you’re interested in observing the shower, I urge you to find groups going out; it’s more fun with lots of people, and it’s easier to stay awake. Sky and Telescope’s website has a searchable list of clubs and organizations so you can find out who’s near you. Added bonus: Jupiter is up all night, so if you’re with a group of folks with telescopes you’ll get to see one of the best sights in the sky. Bring binoculars if you have them too; they’re easy to share.

The Perseids are a great way to get kids into astronomy, and a wonderful way to spend an evening. Have fun!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff

Comments (18)

Links to this Post

  1. Tweeteor Shower « The Bee Buzz | August 12, 2009
  2. perseids seattle | | August 12, 2009
  1. @Bad Astronomer

    Phil, I looked at some of the comments on that linked thread responding to the following statement:

    You lose most of your body heat through your head, so a hat helps a lot.

    You had replied that you would look into it more. Have you? IIRC, the head-heat-sink bit originated with a military study that was measuring body heat loss, except their subjects wore body suits that had the amazing quality of helping to trap in heat 😛 thereby allowing less to radiate from the body.

    Can’t remember the source of the info, but I think the truth of the matter is that a person’s head radiates heat about the same as the rest of the body. I’ll see if I can find the source of my recollections.

    Edit: I think I found it. An article by Vreeman and Carroll that was, I believe, reprinted in Skeptical Inquirer

  2. Andrew

    Wouldn’t staring at an illuminated screen to keep up with twitter kind of have the side effect of ruining your nightvision to watch the actual meteor shower?

  3. StevoR

    Sadly, I don’t think the Perseid meteor shower will be terribly good as seen from Australia or the Southern hemisphere. That’s sort of implied with Perseus being a Northern circumpolar constellation* .. :-(

    BA you just might want to mention that for Aussies, Kiwis, SAfricans, Chileans, etc … who might be reading your blog. (Yeah, I’m one of them. But there are also many others too I think.)

    Of course we can always see it via the intertoob, photos and videos – although its not quite the same.

    @ 2 Andrew : I would think so – yes.

    Unless that is your screen is wrapped in red cellophane! 😉
    (Which may just make it useless natch.)

    @ 1 Todd W. I always thought you lost most heat out of your head too – until I saw a mythbusters episode a few years (?) ago that busted that one. I still wear a beanie when its cold though & feel much warmer because of it! 😉


    * At least it is from Adelaide, South Oz.

  4. @StevoR

    Loving that edit feature, huh? :)

  5. nancy

    Good timing! I have Friday off, so Thursday night I might head up to Palomar Mountain and see how things look from near the Observatory.

  6. Chris

    Wow, I actually LIVE near Newbury! Never thought my little town would make it onto your blog, Phil…

    Hopefully the weather will be good for this!

  7. Kevin

    Sigh… Gonna be so awesome, and I live in freakin’ Northern Virginia – stupid light pollution!

  8. Charlie Young

    Too bad after two months of clear skies here in Seattle, it decides to turn cloudy just in time for this event. It always seem to do that here. I might have to head for less cloudy (and less light pollution) on the east side of the mountains.

  9. Mike Wagner

    When I use SkyVoyager to figure out what I’m looking at, it represents Neptune as being much brighter than Jupiter. Which is actually the brighter of the two?

  10. Weather in the UK is forecast to be clear for the Twitter ‘Meteorwatch. The event is now getting big, really big. Thanks Phil

  11. Good luck finding any information on how the Perseids are actually performing by going through the flood of #Meteorwatch tweets – they may entertain the public at large (not a bad thing), but dedicated fans may find the automatically generated activity profile from IMO (based on visual counts by trained observers) more rewarding.

    It’s typically a few hours to a day late, though, because people have to fill out lengthy scientific forms: It would therefore be fun if Twitter could somehow augment such data gathering in real-time. But given the low signal/noise ratio I’m seeing right now, I doubt it. Then again – hey, prove me wrong! :-)

  12. Nobody

    Sigh… I’m in the city; no dark spots anywhere near here. Curses…

  13. Curt

    According to, there may be a meteor outburst this year:

    “This year’s Perseid meteor shower could be even better than usual. According to NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, a filament of comet dust has drifted across Earth’s path and when Earth passes through it, sometime between 0800 and 0900 UT (1 – 2 am PDT) on August 12th, the Perseid meteor rate could surge to twice its normal value.”

  14. Leander

    “One thing that has changed since then, though, is the advent of Twitter! ”

    Another thing has changed since then – the claim that we loose most heat through our head has been revealed to be bogus. Otherwise, nice guide.

  15. Dan

    I’ll be spending a good portion of tonight on Mt. Palomar, should be interesting.

  16. StevoR

    @ 4. Todd W. Says:

    @StevoR – Loving that edit feature, huh? :-)

    Sure am! 😀

    @ 9. Mike Wagner Says:

    When I use SkyVoyager to figure out what I’m looking at, it represents Neptune as being much brighter than Jupiter. Which is actually the brighter of the two?

    Jupiter by an astronomical distance. Jupiter is the second brightest planet with a maximum mag of minus two point five. Whereas Neptune isn’t even visble to the unaided eye requiring binocs at least to observe so “SkyVoyager”‘ has got that very wrong.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


See More

Collapse bottom bar