Stargasm: A beginner's guide to enjoying meteor showers and the night sky.
Start writing a post

Stargasm: A beginner's guide to enjoying meteor showers and the night sky.

Spending a night beneath the Perseid meteor shower.

Stargasm: A beginner's guide to enjoying meteor showers and the night sky.

I remember as a child being absolutely captivated by the night sky. While growing up, I watched "Jack Horkheimer: Star Gazer" on PBS, listening intently for astronomical news. Every so often, I would bundle up in my long johns, slip on my sneakers, hose down in bug spray and burst out the backdoor, down the hill to my hammock. I would remain there the entire night, taken by the beauty of what I imagined to be falling stars.

Despite the internet replacing my PBS viewing, a few nights ago I returned to my old ways. Once again, I wandered about my backyard staring up through the--now narrower--picture frame of tree branches to the wonders that reside beyond. Even with the light pollution attributed to living in the middle of town, I could still clearly see slashes of light pierce through the sky.

Between the night of August 11th and the morning of August 12th, the 2016 Perseid meteor shower peaked. Unfortunately from my viewpoint, the radiant of the shower and it's namesake--the constellation of Perseus--was located behind treetops for most of it. However, Perseus' celestial neighbor Cassiopeia stayed visible, along with a multitude of streaking lights that emanated from their direction.

The Perseid meteor shower is normally the most prolific meteor shower of the year, due to the large size of its originating comet Swift-Tuttle. Known for having one of the highest rates of showers seen in the Northern Hemisphere, the Perseids also has the most fireballs, or extremely bright and easily seen meteors.

For those of you who don't remember 8th grade astronomy, a meteor shower happens when a multitude of meteors (meteoroids entering Earth's atmosphere) occur within the same time frame, usually the result of Earth crossing the path of a comet. While orbiting the sun, small bits of rock and dust become dislodged from the icy comet and when Earth crosses its orbit, these bits of rock and dust enter the Earth's atmosphere. As they heat from the friction, or drag, of falling through the air toward Earth, spectators well below on the Earth's surface see a spectacular streak of light.

If you missed the Perseid outburst this year, don't fret. While the Perseids don't make another appearance until next August (another outburst is many years away), there are several other noteworthy showers that take place throughout the year. Orionids (October 21-22), Leonids (November 16-17) and Geminids (December 13-14) are still to come in 2016.

In the meantime, if you'd like to take up stargazing, here's a few helpful hints and links for beginners to get a head start on the next meteor shower. Be mindful of the full moon which will obscure your view of many fainter objects, but also get to know the night sky and its constellations. A great app I like to use is "Skyview Free." One of its many features includes a location generated, interactive sky map that finds celestial objects simply by pointing your phone at them (while using night friendly lighting to illustrate constellations without hurting your night-adjusted eyes). Another cool feature allows you to create a stargazing music playlist (mine of course includes Meteor Shower by Rhett Miller). It's also important to keep track of things you can see with the naked eye via applications like "SkyWeek," making sure to plan ahead for successful adventures. Lastly, find a dark location, if possible, with a wide view of the horizon, away from the light pollution of cities. Of course, depending on where you live, this can be quite a task. The website "Active Junky" has a wonderful article detailing how to "Darken Your Sky." Most importantly though, sit back and relax. As Horkheimer would say, "Keep looking up!"

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
houses under green sky
Photo by Alev Takil on Unsplash

Small towns certainly have their pros and cons. Many people who grow up in small towns find themselves counting the days until they get to escape their roots and plant new ones in bigger, "better" places. And that's fine. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought those same thoughts before too. We all have, but they say it's important to remember where you came from. When I think about where I come from, I can't help having an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for my roots. Being from a small town has taught me so many important lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Keep Reading...Show less
​a woman sitting at a table having a coffee

I can't say "thank you" enough to express how grateful I am for you coming into my life. You have made such a huge impact on my life. I would not be the person I am today without you and I know that you will keep inspiring me to become an even better version of myself.

Keep Reading...Show less
Student Life

Waitlisted for a College Class? Here's What to Do!

Dealing with the inevitable realities of college life.

college students waiting in a long line in the hallway

Course registration at college can be a big hassle and is almost never talked about. Classes you want to take fill up before you get a chance to register. You might change your mind about a class you want to take and must struggle to find another class to fit in the same time period. You also have to make sure no classes clash by time. Like I said, it's a big hassle.

This semester, I was waitlisted for two classes. Most people in this situation, especially first years, freak out because they don't know what to do. Here is what you should do when this happens.

Keep Reading...Show less
a man and a woman sitting on the beach in front of the sunset

Whether you met your new love interest online, through mutual friends, or another way entirely, you'll definitely want to know what you're getting into. I mean, really, what's the point in entering a relationship with someone if you don't know whether or not you're compatible on a very basic level?

Consider these 21 questions to ask in the talking stage when getting to know that new guy or girl you just started talking to:

Keep Reading...Show less

Challah vs. Easter Bread: A Delicious Dilemma

Is there really such a difference in Challah bread or Easter Bread?

loaves of challah and easter bread stacked up aside each other, an abundance of food in baskets

Ever since I could remember, it was a treat to receive Easter Bread made by my grandmother. We would only have it once a year and the wait was excruciating. Now that my grandmother has gotten older, she has stopped baking a lot of her recipes that require a lot of hand usage--her traditional Italian baking means no machines. So for the past few years, I have missed enjoying my Easter Bread.

Keep Reading...Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments