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From: TerryMoselaol.com
Date: 10 August 2006 19:14:11 BDT
Subject: Perseids + BBQ, Armagh Planetarium

Hi all,

We are now approaching the maximum of the annual Perseids meteor shower.
This is one of the best annual showers, and up to 100 meteors per hour
can be seen at maximum by an experienced observer, in a very dark sky,
IN PERFECT CONDITIONS. Maximum is expected to be near midnight on
Saturday night (12/13 August).

But in spite of the hype by one Irish astronomy organisation, we are NOT
going to see anything even close to that this year. The problem is that
there will be a bright gibbous Moon (83% illuminated) on the night of
maximum, and that will drown out all but the brightest meteors. Since
there are many more faint meteors than bright ones, that means that even
in otherwise good conditions we will be lucky to see more than about 25
per hour. However, the Perseids sometimes produces some really bright
meteors, and they will be spectacular in spite of the Moonlight, so it's
still well worth having a look.

To get the best views, position yourself somewhere where the Moon is out
of your field of vision, and look in the direction of the darkest,
clearest part of the sky about 40-50 degrees about the horizon, and
about 40 degrees from the radiant, which is near the famous 'Double
Cluster' in Perseus (roughly halfway between Perseus and Cassiopeia).

You may also see some other meteors of course, but any meteor whose
track projected backwards across the sky passes within about 5 degrees
just above the Double Cluster is likely to be a Perseid.

The Irish Astronomical Association will once again be holding a
'Perseids Barbecue' on Saturday night. But since the Moon will be so
bright, we're not going to any of our usual dark sky locations, as no
matter where we go, we can't escape the moonlight! So to make it
more convenient for everyone, we're going to Cultra, Co Down, for a BBQ,
followed by meteor observing, and whatever else you fancy, such as
Jupiter if we can get it low down in the SW twilight, or even the Moon
(we may as well turn adversity to our advantage!) - weather permitting
of course!  We'll be at the lower car park (between the main road and
the sea) at the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum, Cultra, between Belfast
and Holywood on Saturday 12 August, at 8 p.m. We'll provide the BBQ to
cook on - bring your own food & drink, plates, cutlery, glasses, chairs,
etc. Come earlier if you want to bring your own portable BBQ & set it
up. We should be ready to start cooking by about 8.30, finishing about
9.30, to give us time to clear things away, & then set up the
telescopes.  We'll then start observing as soon as it gets dark
enough. Bring your own telescope & binocs if you can. If you want to do
some proper meteor observing, bring a lounger or tilt-back chair so that
you can look up comfortably at the sky for long periods.  And wrap up
warm - it can get quite cold late on, even in August!  Of course if
it's raining, or totally cloudy, the event will be cancelled. But if
there's any reasonable amount of clear sky, we'll be there.

(Next year the moonlight conditions for the Perseids are nearly perfect,
so we'll be going to a good dark sky site such as Big Collin in Co
Antrim, or Drumkeeragh in Co Down, or maybe both.).

2. Remember that Armagh Planetarium has now re-opened after its major
refurbishment and upgrade, with a Digistar 3 Projector, the most
advanced in the world. There are several shows each day. Advance booking
is required. See details on www.Armaghplanet.com.

Clear skies,

Terry Moseley

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Last Revised: 2006 August 11th
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