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Starwatch – Waiting for Perseid

Photographing Astronomical features is obviously a highly evolved art

It’s 5.10 a.m. Perth time. The first magpie has carolled, a distant rooster crows. Someone sent me a message that the Perseid Meteor Shower is supposed to be visible in the Southern Hemisphere at 5.25 and that it was supposed to be especially spectacular this year. We’d seen it once while overnighting on a racecourse in Cairns and it was the most beautiful sight – showers of falling stars. 

I didn’t want the girls to miss it, but after last night’s bonfire with charred marshmallows, I couldn’t wake them, so now I was sitting expectantly in the “dress circle” -that bit of curved retaining wall at the back of the house, looking up at the stars and getting a stiff neck and frozen feet. (It’s better if you can lie on your back, have a blanket and a thermos and maybe a couple of pillows).  Astronomers are a hardy lot. I recall a night with freezing ears watching a friend take photos of Magellanic Clouds. Tonight the moon has set, there is only a little haze and almost no light pollution. Orion is visible and so is the Southern Cross.

After almost an hour the count is one satellite, one shooting star, three planets and one streetlight. I’m pretty sure that one of the planets is Mercury since it is reddish but I’m not sure about the others.  I go inside to check it up on the Internet. Could they really be Uranus and Neptune as the NASA site says, or is that only for the Northern Hemisphere?

There are lots of sites with stunning pictures of the Perseid Shower, but none are as beautiful as the one we saw that night on the racecourse – and no, I wasn’t on anything.
Right at the end there’s an ABC News item as to when and where you can see it. Alas, they are all for the north of Australia – Darwin, Cairns etc. South of Brisbane it occurs below the horizon. Just as well I couldn’t get the girls out of bed. The site below says that it should be visible in Perth between 5 and 6 a.m. tomorrow morning, so I  may give it another shot. It gives the times for other cities also. The shower is expected to last until August 24, though the waxing moon will make it harder to see.

There may be other opportunities to see meteors later in the year, though they come with no guarantees that you’ll see them where you are. I’ll have to consult my friendly neighbourhood astronomers. 
These are from which also shows moonsets, sunrises and sunsets in your area:

  • 2016 Orionids meteor shower - October 21st
  • 2016 Leonids meteor shower - November 17th
  • 2016 Geminids meteor shower - December 14th

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