Perseid Meteor shower at Grier’s Field

Word is there’s going to be a meteor shower in the early morning hours of August 12th. So says NASA:

The 2008 Perseid meteor shower peaks on August 12th and it should be a good show.

see caption”The time to look is during the dark hours before dawn on Tuesday, August 12th,” says Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center. “There should be plenty of meteors–perhaps one or two every minute.” …

The source of the shower is Comet Swift-Tuttle. Although the comet is far away, currently located beyond the orbit of Uranus, a trail of debris from the comet stretches all the way back to Earth. Crossing the trail in August, Earth will be pelted by specks of comet dust hitting the atmosphere at 132,000 mph. At that speed, even a flimsy speck of dust makes a vivid streak of light when it disintegrates–a meteor! Because, Swift-Tuttle’s meteors streak out of the constellation Perseus, they are called “Perseids.”

The moon will set around two AM on the 12th, which will make seeing the meteors much easier. I’ve yet to experience a really great meteor shower, and since I’m currently living in a less urban area, it should be easy to find somewhere with low light-pollution in order to observe the show.

Enter the realization that Grier’s Field, a rural spot dedicated to nighttime stargazing, is less than 60 miles from Augusta. I have the beginnings of a plan.

For those of you who aren’t into astronomy 1, Grier’s Field is where Robert Grier, of Grier’s Almanac fame (yeah I had never heard of it either), grew up. A bit more on Grier:

An amateur astronomer and accomplished mathematician, Grier put his knowledge to good use by publishing an almanac predicting sunrises and sunsets, lunar eclipses and phases, plus general weather trends. So accurate and popular was his almanac that it became an annual publication until Grier’s death, at which point another publisher took the reigns, and then another. Grier’s Almanac has now been published annually for over two hundred years. First published in 1807 as “The Georgia and South Carolina Almanack,” the almanac made Robert Grier’s name a household word in the nation until his death in 1848.

Hip to Grier, some nerdelicious astronomers from Atlanta created a dark sky community2 called the Deerlick Astronomy Village, which saddles up to Grier’s Field. Awesome!

So I’m thinking — why not drive to Grier’s Field on the 11th and set up shop for this meteor shower? Sure, I don’t have a telescope, but hey, maybe there’d be a generous nerd or two who would let me have a peep through their scope. Maybe I’d get lucky.

Anyone up for the trip?

Footnotes:

1 For the record, I’m not. However, those rare occurrences when I’ve been able to see the Milky Way are some of the most existential and awe-inspiring of my life.

2 I’m not big into the green movement. I’m not going to go into why here (maybe one day). However, I do have a general problem with pollution, where pollution is of the negative externality variety. Most specifically, I have a strong distaste for light pollution — not because its a waste of energy (not an externality – cost born by user), but because it blocks my view of the night sky. Sigh.

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