Meteors are particles from interplanetary space that vaporize in the Earth’s atmosphere. These celestial streaks last only a second or two, yet sometimes they light up the whole sky.
On most nights, even careful observers catch only a few “shooting stars” per hour. However, on select occasions a meteor shower produces extra activity. The shower occurs when the Earth passes through the dusty trail left by an old comet.
Many meteor showers are associated with comets. The Perseides are associated with Comet Swift-Tuttle; Orionids with Halley, and the Leonids with Tempel-Tuttle.
The best-known annual display is the Perseid meteor shower, so named because the shooting stars seem to emanate from the constellation Perseus. Several dozen Perseides per hour rain down after midnight every August 11-12, the night of maximum activity.
Meteor observing is easy and fun and you don’t need a telescope or binoculars. Go outside one night when a major shower is active, and make sure you have a good view of the sky in the direction of the shower. Most meteors will be visible in the late evening and early morning hours, so plan carefully you observing night.
IMO Report: Day: 11/12 Month: 08 Year: 2004
In 2004 the activity was very strong, in an effective time of 4.17 hours I counted 219 Perseides and 73 sporadics. Most of the Perseides where faint, with magnitudes between four and five. I have seen only one meteor with a negative magnitude.
I observed the 2003 Perseids from my country house. The sky was fantastic, with a limiting magnitude of about 6.6.
In the first night the activity was weak, with only three Perseids in 1.13 hours. I also recorded four dimly shining Capricornids. The following nights the activity increased, in the night between August 4th and 5th I saw 10 Perseids in 1.44 hours. The following night, between August 5th and 6th, in 2.13 hours I saw 22 Perseids, 4 K-Cygnids and 31 sporadic meteors.
IMO Report: Day: 25/26 Month: 04 Year: 2003
In 2003 I observed the Lyrids for the first time. Unfortunately, I missed the night of the maximum due to the unfavorable weather conditions. The report dates from the night of 26th-27th April, soon after the “official” activity had ceased. Within a time span of 1.2 hours I saw two Lyrids and five sporadic meteors.
IMO Report: Day: 19/20 Month: 11 Year: 2002
A simplified report without magnitude distribution, due to difficult observing conditions considerable errors would have occurred.
This year I observed the Leonids from my town, I assembled my stuff on the roof of my block. The sky was clear most of the time, but the transparence was disastrous. The full Moon, in combination with the lights of the city and at times the thin layer of clouds greatly diminished the show.
Between 6.00 A.M. and 6.30 A.M., during the period of maximum, I saw around three meteors every minute. At 7.00 A.M. I saw the last meteor, to the east, it shone brightly on the clouds surrounding it. In all I saw over 200 Leonids and 19 sporadics.
IMO Report: Day: 10/11 Month: 08 Year: 2002
Unfortunately when I observed the Perseids in 2002 the weather wasn’t on my side: it rained and the sky kept cloudy. I missed the maximum and I spent a whole night going outside every 30 minutes to see if the sky had cleared.
Early in the evening the sky was clear, then clouds started to pop up on the horizon. At midnight it started to thunder to the north and breeches appeared among the clouds. I saw about 10 Perseids among the clouds, while in the same area diffuse thunderbolts lightened up the sky.
The Leonids were great, I had even seen meteors before the sunrise, on an incredibly clear sky. In the first night the activity was scarce, with only one spectacular meteor. The situation changed the following night, the activity was intense; I didn’t leave the field where I had set up my observation camp not even when I became chilled to the marrow!
In 2001 I observed the Perseids from the mountains, at an altitude of 2100 meters. It was an outstanding show on the unequalled mountain sky, I saw a few brighter meteors but I missed a very bright one (magnitude -9) that lit up just as I was exploring the opposite direction. The most spectacular meteor was a K-Cygnid, bright and unusually long.