The Perseids meteor shower will be broadcast live and simultaneously from El Anillo (Cáceres) and the Teide Observatory (IAC, Tenerife) through the sky-live.tv channel, on August 12, with the collaboration of the European project STARS4ALL and the initiative promoted by the Junta de Extremadura, “Extremadura, Buenas Noches”.
The Perseids return. This time with an observation proposal for the whole family included in the citizen science project “Contadores de estrellas” funded by FECYT.
As every year, the Perseids show their peak of activity in mid-August. In 2018, the Perseids activity will take place between July 17th and August 24th. The maximum is expected at 01:00 UT on August 13th. In Europe, therefore, the nights from the 11th to the 12th and from the 12th to the 13th of August will be the best moments for observing the meteor shower. Thanks to the new Moon we will be able to observe a great amount of meteors (in average, an observer will be able to see one every two minutes) some of them very bright (due to their high speeds of entrance in the atmosphere), as long as we are located in a dark place -without light pollution– and with clear horizons. According to Miquel Serra-Ricart, astronomer at the IAC, “This year, at last, we are going to have a very dark night because of the absence of the moon. If we place ourselves in a place without light pollution and without clouds, the show is assured. “
A shower with history
The so-called ‘shooting stars’ are actually small dust particles of different sizes, some of them smaller than grains of sand, which comets -or asteroids- leave along their orbits around the Sun. The resulting cloud of particles (called meteoroids), due to the “thawing” produced by the solar heat, is scattered by the orbit of the comet and is pierced every year by the Earth in its orbit around the Sun. During this encounter, the dust particles disintegrate upon entering at high speed in the terrestrial atmosphere, creating the well-known luminous lines that receive the scientific name of meteors.
The Perseids activity has as its progenitor the comet Swift-Tuttle, discovered in 1862, which is currently the largest object that periodically approaches the Earth, with an approximate size of 26 km in diameter.
We know -according to the calculations of state-of-the-art models- that the activity of the Perseids is around 100 meteors / hour (ZHR or zenith hourly rates). In the years close to the perihelion of Swift-Tuttle (maximum approach to the Sun, the last was in 1992 and the next will be in 2126) the activity can grow to 400-500 meteors / hour due to the high density of meteoroids that surround and accompany the comet. However, the Perseids are known for their “activity bursts” caused by the gravitational influence of the Solar System giants – Jupiter and Saturn – on the dust clouds – meteoroid clouds – ejected by the comet in the past. In 1839, the German observer E.Heis took into account for the first time the maximum rate of the Perseids: 160 meteors/hour. Then, until 1858, it fluctuated between 37 and 88 meteors/hour. In 1920, for example, the Perseids reached 200 meteors/hour and 187 in 1983. “Although a significant increase in activity is not expected for this year, the Perseids have never let us down. Since 2013, and thanks to the good conditions of the Teide Observatory, we have been able to observe rain continuously and every year we have witnessed a beautiful show in the sky. This year, without Moon, we will be able to detect weaker perseids. In fifteen minutes, we surely count them by tens if we can hold our gaze at a fixed point in the sky”, specifies Serra-Ricart.
Counting stars as a family activity
During all the meteor showers, Astronomy amateurs make counts of the meteors -or shooting stars- and send them to the International Meteor Organization (IMO) to calculate the activity rates of these rains. In these Perseids of 2018, the Instituto Astrofísico de Canarias (IAC) and the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM), have joined under the citizen science project Contadores de Estrellas (www.contadoresdeestrellas.ciclope.info), funded by FECYT (Fundación Española para la Ciencia y la Tecnología), and have developed an educational activity so that any citizen can collaborate in these counts. The guide describes the procedure to follow, via some apps that have to be previously installed in their mobile devices, and using a very basic material. The challenge is to get that, in a simple way, the general public can also participate and understand this astronomical phenomenon, as well as other curiosities of the sky that are described in the guide. This activity is planned to be carried out in family or in teams, since the event coincides in many cases during the holiday period and it is very common for citizens to take the opportunity to go out and observe.
The project has established a photography contest that will allow citizens to share their photos of that Perseid night and get interesting prizes related to Astronomy.
Live from the Teide Observatory and El Anillo
Included among the Light Pollution Initiatives of the European project STARS4ALL (stars4all.eu) and with the collaboration of the Dirección General de Turismo (Junta de Extremadura), the channel sky-live.tv will broadcast, live, the meteor shower with two cameras, one located at the Teide Observatory (IAC, Tenerife, Canary Islands) an the other in El Anillo (Centro Internacional de Innovación Deportiva en el Medio Natural, Junta de Extremadura, Cáceres).
The appointment is next Sunday, August 12th at 23:15 UT (August 13th 00:15 local time in the Canary Islands, 01:15 CEST, local time in Central Europe).
“Contadores de Estrellas” (star counters) is a project that has received funding from the Fundación Española para la Ciencia y la Tecnología (FECYT) of the “Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovación y Universidades”.
STARS4ALL is a project funded by the H2020 Program of the European Union under the agreement number 688135. STARS4ALL is composed of 8 institutions (UPM, CEFRIEL, SOTON, ECN, ESCP Europe, IAC, IGB, UCM) from 6 countries.
Extremadura Buenas Noches is a project included within the Estrategia de la Noche of the Junta de Extremadura (Extremadura 2030).
Three Spanish Supercomputing centres: the Centro Extremeño de Tecnologías Avanzadas (CETA-CIEMAT), the Consorci de Serveis Universitaris de Catalunya (CSUC) and the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) will collaborate in the distribution of the web portal broadcast (sky -live.tv).
Contadores de estrellas
Sequences of the best Perseids 2016 and 2017,
High Resolution Images Meteor Showers,