NASA detected at least five fireballs over the weekend, officially starting the Perseid meteor shower. This shower is the most active of the year, peaking August 11-13, and boasts more fireballs than any other annual meteor shower. Unfortunately this year, the Perseid meteor shower will be affected by light pollution from the August 10th full moon.
Tonight, the moon sets at 10:46pm, which means dark skies after midnight should allow for easy fireball viewing. This is the first night that Pittsburgh hasn’t had a mostly overcast sky, so while there will still be some scattered clouds, tonight is still your best bet for catching a couple fireballs. Not being a meteorologist, I cannot say what the weather will do over the coming days.
If you are not a member at one of the private observatories, you can always venture north to Moraine State Park and use the public parklands to enjoy the meteor shower. If you don’t want to travel that far, really any fields/farmland removed from light pollution will be fine. It may be possible to see some fireballs from within city limits, but it’s not very likely, so you should really try to get somewhere dark if you are serious about seeing something tonight.
It will take your eyes at 10-15 minutes to adjust into “night vision” from the last time you looked at a bright screen or street light. While it may be tempting to tweet and facebook while you wait for fireballs, you’ll have a better experience putting the phone down and just enjoying the sky.
Tweet us if you see anything and please send in your photos so that we can re-share!
Lots of good photography has been submitted to us over the last week, but we haven’t had a chance to share it all yet. Last week, the moon came within 1 degree of Mars. And yesterday was the last full moon to appear on Friday the 13 until August 13 2049.
June 9th moon (Waxing Gibbous.) Photo by James Watt. Taken from Cheswick, Pennsylvania:
Friday the 13th evening moon (Waning Gibbous, almost full.) Photo by James Watt. Taken from Cheswick, Pennsylvania:
June 7th conjunction of Moon and Mars. Photo by Jim Dunning. Taken from Marietta, Georgia:
June 7th conjunction of Moon and Mars. Photo by Ciro Rolandi. Taken from Forest Hills, Pennsylvania:
Dawn of May 26th. Photo by Liz Harmony. Taken from Greensburg, Pennsylvania:
Pittsburgh Sunrise on September 28, 2013. Photo by Eric Binder:
Sunrise at Wagman’s Observatory on July 19, 2013. Photo by Kerrin Melnick:
Sunset from Bessemer Railroad in the Allegheny River Valley on June 5th. Photo by James Watt:
June 3rd Rainbow over Plum, PA. Photo by James Watt:
If you have any sky photography that you would like to share, please contact us via Twitter or our Facebook page. Thanks to everyone who submitted these photos.
A reminder: we only post about events that will be visible from the Northeast United States. If you’re in another geographical location, this list may be inaccurate or lacking. Furthermore, the information below is for sky events that are already known and predicted. Many events, such as Auroras, cannot be predicted until just a day or two in advance.
Check back for information about when and where to watch the Perseid meteor shower this summer as well as other updates.
The meteor shower Friday night was mostly a bust for Pittsburghers as clouds obscured most areas. However, a couple people were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. Below, one skywater was fortunate enough to capture a meteor from his backyard in Centerville, PA.
Image credits: Don Pettit
Another skywatcher somehow managed to get video footage of a fireball earlier in the night. (Tip: disable captions by clicking on the gear in the bottom right of the YouTube window. The video poster has since filled his footage with channel ads…)
According to the Institut de mecanique celeste et de calcul des ephemerides, tonight’s meteor shower could produce 100-400 meteors during peak hours. This is much more than even the most active annual meteor showers that we normally get to see. Best time to view will be from 2:30 til 4am. The waxing crescent moon will rise at 3:24am, but by the time it is bright enough in the sky to interfere with the shower, the peak will have ended. Even without the meteor shower, the moonrise will be a wonderful event to watch and photograph if you plan on bringing any camera equipment.
It appears the clouds will continue receding in Pittsburgh and that we may actually have a decent chance of seeing this shower. You can view this shower from any of the local observatories (see “Local Observatories” in our right sidebar) but many of us will be traveling to Raccoon Creek Park tonight to view. If you are going to make the venture out, please wait until at least midnight to ensure that the sky really will be clear.
Update: A previous version of this article said we will be meeting at Moraine State Park. We have since been tweeted by the National Weather Service with the following viewing map. Due to this map, we have decided to view from Raccoon Creek.
Last night was a rollercoaster ride for most Pittsburgh skywatchers. Around midnight, the sky pretty much cleared, giving false hope that we may actually get to see something. By 1:30am, however, it was completely overcast; so thick you could barely make out any of the moon’s light whatsoever. Since we weren’t able to observe the eclipse, here’s some photos from an astrophotographer in Arizona who was more fortunate.
Upcoming events: the Lyrid meteor shower is next week. Best viewing date is between midnight and dawn on the 22nd. Here’s to hoping that our luck changes in the near future!
There hasn’t been much to post lately, mostly due to the cold weather we have been having, but also because there hasn’t been very many interesting things happening in the night skies. However, that’s all about to change.
* This is a possible meteor shower caused by Comet 209P/LINEAR. It is unknown what type of shower it will produce, if any at all, but it could be one of the biggest of the year. Read more.
And as a bonus, here’s a shot taken today of the evening moon.
Image credit: James Watt.