Perseid meteors

08/09/2012 - 08:46

The Perseids appear to come from the direction of the Persius constellation so if you look generally North or better still point your i-Pad you'll get there. There are also a few from Delta Aquarid which come across from the South I think. They have started off strong this year already and the peak is on Saturday.


Yes, it's definitely worth staying soberish, lying on your back poolside, and staring at the sky. Friday (August 10) is La notte di San Lorenzo - traditionally the night of the shooting stars (pity the Olympics organisers didn't twig this one to hang some event on!) It's also the title of a film made by the Taviani brothers which is definitely worth a watch. (If you don't stay sober, you can see them any night of the year!)

For anyone who is an amateur telescope maker, there is a very interesting convention that takes place annually not too far from where we live.  Usually about 3000 people convene from around the world.  Here is an old NY Times article about the event.  It will be taking place this coming weekend: On Vermont Hillside, Amateur Telescope Makers Compare Their Feats By MALCOLM W. BROWNE Published: August 05, 1997 The night sky on Saturday was overcast and punctuated by rain squalls, but for some 2,000 amateur telescope builders who came from far and wide, the bad weather hardly mattered; most had come not so much to look at the stars as to display and admire one another's handmade telescopes. The pilgrims attending the annual Stellafane conclave of telescope builders ranged in age from an 11-year-old Long Island girl to an 88-year-old builder from Cornwall, England, all consumed by a passion for telescopes. Atop Breezy Hill near Springfield, a legion of glittering instruments, some as large as houses and some as small as briefcases, paraded their builders' craftsmanship across some 30 acres of Vermont countryside. Amid the campsites that covered the Stellafane tract, there were huge Dobsonian telescopes a yard in diameter, fancy Schmidt-Cassegrains and Maksutovs, refractors the size of a field cannon, telescopes with simple and ''folded'' light paths and a pair of binoculars as large as a car. There were telescopes modeled on Isaac Newton's 17th-century reflectors, and telescopes embodying the latest in computer control and imaging devices. There were lectures and classes in telescope-making and comet-hunting, social events and the camaraderie that telescope-building families look forward to experiencing here every year. The weekend meeting was the 62d annual Stellafane gathering at Breezy Hill; the tradition was begun by Russell W. Porter in 1926. (Some years were skipped, including those during World War II.) Mr. Porter named the annual telescope meeting, and the permanent observatory he built on Breezy Hill, Stellafane, a contraction of the Latin for ''shrine of the stars.'' Stellafane is a peculiarly American tradition that has less to do with observational astronomy than with the technological roots nurtured by Vermont's once-peerless tool industry. The same mechanical skills that helped develop and build weapons for the Yankee forces during the Civil War created a reservoir of regional skills that led to the founding of Stellafane by amateurs. Amateur telescope-building, in turn, enriched the technology of professional astronomy in the first half of the 20th century. Stellafane's founder, Mr. Porter, was an expert optician, arctic explorer and artist, and he not only devised many new amateur telescope systems but contributed expertise to the building and testing of the 200-inch-diameter telescope at Mount Palomar, Calif. With its completion in 1948, the 200-inch telescope became the world's preeminent astronomical instrument, and it held that status for more than four decades. The line between amateur and professional telescope builders is often blurred. Paul Valleli of Burlington, Mass., attended Stellafane as an amateur this year, but he is a professional optician at Itek Optical Systems, in Lexington, Mass., where he helped make mirror segments incorporated into the Keck Telescope in Hawaii, the world's largest. ''Many amateur telescope builders are pretty ingenious,'' Mr. Valleli said. ''I started as an amateur, after my father gave me an antique brass spyglass from a whaling ship. I went on to learn how to grind and parabolize telescope mirrors.'' Dr. Brian G. Marsden, director of the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass., said in a telephone interview that Stellafane exemplified a cultural difference between English and American stargazers. ''I grew up in England,'' he said, ''and young people interested in astronomy used to joke that while we English were interested in observing the stars, our American counterparts seemed more interested in the telescopes themselves. Personally, I've never built a telescope, and most of my work as an astronomer deals with calculations, not observations. I could never understand how someone could build a telescope and then just put it aside.'' But another Englishman, Alan Macintosh of Marshgate, Cornwall, had a contrasting view. ''I'm 88 years old, and this is the 30th Stellafane I've come to since 1954,'' Mr. Macintosh said. ''I'm a telescope builder, not an astronomer, you see. Since 1938, I've built more than 70 telescopes, but once I finish a telescope, I lose interest in it and go on to the next one. Anyway, Cornwall, in the west of England, has only about two clear nights a year, so it's just as well.'' Some telescope lovers buy their instruments, but the acquisition of powerful and expensive instruments is sometimes disappointing. Scores of stands were set up this year as ''swap tables'' where telescope enthusiasts could trade or sell unused equipment, much of it offered at a small fraction of its original cost. Bruce Barrett of Laconia, N.H., tried to attract a buyer for his commercially built telescope, 10 inches in diameter and equipped with a drive motor and many computerized accessories. Asked why he was selling the beautiful instrument, which originally cost about as much as a cheap car, he said, ''I've had it for three years, and I just found that I wasn't using it much.'' Dennis di Cicco, an editor of the magazine Sky and Telescope who attended his 31st Stellafane meeting this year, said that radical advances in electronic technology had changed the character of amateur astronomy. ''The advent of the charge-couple device, the electronic replacement for the photographic plates on which observers used to depend, has brought about a quantum leap in the last 10 years,'' he said. (The charge-couple device, somewhat similar to a television video chip, can detect light far fainter than that required by photographic film.) ''Using my 16-inch-diameter telescope equipped with a C.C.D.,'' Mr. di Cicco said, ''I can now observe objects so faint that until a few years ago, they would have been accessible only to the 200-inch telescope. Now, of course, the 200-inch also has C.C.D. cameras replacing photographic film, so it, too, is enormously improved.'' The light-gathering power of an amateur telescope equipped with a charge-couple device, Mr. di Cicco said, ''means that I can go out any night and find a faint asteroid that hasn't been detected before. It's become so routine that I just send my observations to the Minor Planet Center of the International Astronomical Union in Cambridge, Mass., and my discovery goes into the database. From the Internet, mathematical tools are available for roughly calculating orbits of the hundreds of objects discovered by amateurs and professionals.'' Changes in the manufacturing of commercial telescopes threaten to force profound changes on amateurs, some say. Dr. Ferdinand Baar of Rome, N.Y., a retired podiatrist, began building telescopes in the 1960's at the age of 45. ''I got good at it, too,'' Dr. Baar said. ''I've won awards for my creations. In 1969, I built an 11-inch Maksutov telescope that won awards for both mechanical and optical performance.'' (A Maksutov is a hybrid telescope system embodying both mirrors and lenses.) ''I donated it to Hamilton College as a teaching instrument,'' he said, ''and they had to spend some money for an observatory to house it, but it's still in use. Today, with the electronic revolution in astronomy, things have changed. Commercially made telescopes have become better and cheaper than what most amateurs can make, and some of the incentive to build telescopes is gone.'' Another of the telescope enthusiasts at Stellafane who expects changes in the tradition was Bill Gabb of San Marcos, Tex. ''It's true that a lot of young people have lost interest in telescope building,'' Mr. Gabb said. ''The trouble is that with a TV set, you can now look through the eyes of a machine that's actually touching and analyzing rocks on Mars -- something no amateur's earthbound telescope can do. It robs telescope-making of some of its traditional romance. ''Fortunately, though, there have been two great comets in the last two years -- Hyakutaki and Hale-Bopp -- and they both rekindled amateur enthusiasm, I think.'' Making astronomical sights accessible to young people can also keep the love of telescopes alive, said Michael O'Gara of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York City. ''We'll have telescopes set up in Central Park's Sheep Meadow on Sept. 6,'' he said, ''and kids will be able to see Jupiter and Saturn with real instruments, not just pictures. There's nothing like that kind of direct experience to inspire young people.'' But the best hope for keeping amateur telescope-building alive, many said, is to make it a family occupation. One of the families who came to Stellafane this year was that of John and Eileen Vogt and their 11-year-old daughter, Patti, from Huntington on Long Island. Mr. Vogt brought his monster 32-inch-diameter reflecting telescope, and Patti, a seventh grader at St. Patrick's School in Huntington, brought a diminutive but functional reflector with many refinements not commonly found in amateur instruments. ''It took me six months to grind the mirror and make the telescope,'' Patti said, ''but it was fun. And yes, I do love science and math.''        

Also known as le lacrime di San Lorenzo (the tears of San Lorenzo). They are lovely, but you really have to go somewhere dark - no light pollution - to see them at their very best. Well worth it.

In reply to by Esme

I saw them once when on alderney in Channel Islands, late at night with no light pollution.  Think I might have difficultly tonight with light pollution in North West England, and there is cloud cover.  Maybe once again one year...

We've been watching these for years now, this year since the 27th Jul and seen at least 2-3 per night despite the bright moon. Last night there were about 7 in under an hour and one that covered right across the area of sky we were looking at and it's trail lasted for an age after it had burnt out, wonderful to watch!