After The Perseids, A Beautiful Moon-Venus Conjunction

William Wiethoff of Port Wing, Wis. took this nice photo of a bright Perseid slicing across the Milky Way last night. I shot about 85 photos of the shower and captured only the tail end of one meteor! Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. William Wiethoff

I really enjoyed the Perseid meteor shower and hope you had a chance to see it, too. My daughter Maria came over and we reclined in the driveway talking and watching quietly till 1 in the morning. Because I fiddled with the camera she saw a few more meteors than I. Her final count was 25 Perseids and one sporadic meteor and mine 20 (plus one sporadic). But by the time I put everything away and gave a last look, I had added three more to make 24.

Fire haze Saturday night Aug. 11 made for a strange dark-light sunset over Sturgeon Lake in McCarthy Beach State Park in northern Minnesota. Bob King

We were grateful that the fire haze lessened enough by Sunday night enough to see the Milky Way overhead, and though the shower was still compromised, neither of us minded. As with all showers, there were 5-minute-long gaps when no meteors appeared. You’d start to think that maybe it was time for bed when a brilliant flash of light would shoot down the Milky Way and banish the thought.

The Perseids were swift and white; the bright ones, of which there were easily half-a-dozen, left chalky streaks that faded a second later. Cicadas provided the background music for the evening. Warm temperatures meant a lot of busy insects. Their scritchings and scratchings blended into a steady, high-pitched buzz which reminded Maria of the electric hum from a bad fluorescent light.

I made one wish upon a falling star I knew would not come true, but I wanted it to anyway — that my mom could still be with us.

After the pleasant Perseids, I bet you’re ready for the Geminids, the year’s next big shower — bigger actually than the Perseids. It gets going on December 13-14. Mark your calendar and stock up on hand warmers.

The moon and Venus have something nice in store for our eyes tonight (Aug. 14). Stellarium

Smoke from forest fires is still a problem both day and night but not so much that you can’t still see the brighter stars, planets and the moon. Good thing because tonight (August 14) the 3-day-old moon float about 6.5° above Venus low in the western sky about an hour after sundown. Binoculars will give a wonderful view of the ghostly earthshine (reflected light from the Earth) that fills out the moon’s shape, while a small telescope will easily reveal that star-like Venus looks exactly like a half-moon.

Further left or east — about 3½ fists from Venus — look for Jupiter and the fainter star Zubenelgenubi, second-brightest star in Libra the Scales. Zubenelgenubi has a fainter companion star to its right (west) you can easily see in binoculars. On Aug. 15 and 16, Jupiter passes closest to the star this year, with just 0.5° separating them. They won’t be this tight again until December 2029.

5 Responses

  1. Edward O'Reilly

    Hi,Bob,from New Brunswick,Canada. A friend and I observed the shower from a nice,dark area on Sunday
    night into Monday predawn. Was a lovely clear night with sharp seeing conditions and,of course,no
    moon. Over a span of about 4 1/2 hours we saw 94 meteors,of which probly 10 were sporadics.
    Many of the meteors were fast, Jupiter-bright and left brief smoke trails. Worked out to a rate of
    20-25 per hour but,as we were only covering half the sky,there were undoubtedly quite a few more.
    All in all, a very nice shower

    1. astrobob

      Way to do the shower, Edward. Someday, I’ll stay out all night like you did. What you saw jives with what we saw here in Duluth with the brightest Jupiter-bright.

  2. Edward O'Reilly

    Yes,was a nice shower. Not spectacular but a steady stream of meteors alternating(as you
    mentioned)with brief quiet interludes. Only part I didn’t enjoy were the fairly constant mosquitoes.
    The price for summer temperatures,lol

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