The Perseid meteor shower is a very long-lasting shower, running for almost an entire month and radiating from the constellation Perseus. People have been watching the Perseids for about 2000 years, and the shower is sometimes referred to as the Tears of St Lawrence, since the shower was at its peak when he was martyred by the Romans in the year 258 AD. Individual meteors from this shower are particularly fast moving, entering the atmosphere at speeds of over sixty kilometers per second. As a result they streak across the sky and vanish very quickly. The shower begins on July 23, slowly increases in intensity till it peaks on August 12/13, then finally ends on August 22. Although it starts and ends with a rate as low as 1 per hour, you can see anything from 50 – 100 per hour during the peak, under ideal conditions.
Unfortunately, part of those ideal conditions include being in the Northern Hemisphere. South of the equator, where Urban Astronomer does his observing, the radiant never rises above the horizon. I’m unlikely to ever see more than 15 in an hour, all shooting upwards from below the northern horizon. Still, if you’re a meteor watcher then you’ll have to make the effort to see this historically famous shower!
To see it from the Southern Hemisphere, follow the usual meteor watching procedures, but position yourself so that Taurus is directly in front of you. Perseus will then also be in front of you (but below the horizon). You should catch most of the Perseids that can be seen from our lousy latitude. Northern viewers have a much easier time of it – just face Perseus, while lying back in a position that lets you see as much sky as possible without straining your neck.
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