Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

Star Showering with the SciSchmooze 8.13.18

by Herb Masters
Greetings Friends of Science,

I hope that you were or are able to catch some of the Perseid showers. They are quite refreshing as the evening cools off in August. The viewing has been particularly good this year. Be sure to check at the bottom of this page for a nice briefing on them that Alex Filippenko (you must watch that one!) has sent to us.

It has been quite a week in space news. The Parker Solar Probe has begun it’s long hot fall to the sun. Today is the 13th anniversary of the launch of MRO in 2005. There have been many amazing photos of space but MRO took one of the most amazing I have seen. To remotely program a satellite to point to the right place at the right time, to take a picture of a small moving target descending through that atmosphere of another planet 18 light minutes away is beyond crazy! One more space thing. Open this image and see if you can recognize what it is. It’s a planet in our solar system That is a stunningly beautiful picture if you ask me. I know you didn’t but you did subscribe! Thanks for your continued support.

The fire season isn’t just for California anymore! Losing a home, a family member, friend, or anything you are close to due to fire is horrible. I know some will still argue but the increase in fires around the world is pretty convincing to me that climate change is real. How Climate Change Contributed to This Summer’s Wildfires Here’s a different take on how to stop wildfires.

So the number of presentations is picking up as we head out of vacation time and summer. There are as usual more interesting things than you can shake a meter stick at. Here are a few that I think warrant some attention…

  1. Inspiring the Next Generation of Explorers – Education programs at the SETI Institute Tue 7:00 Menlo Park
  2. Hype: A Doctor’s Guide to Medical Myths and Bad Advice Wed 6:00 SF
  3. The Amazing Sounds of Birds Thu 6:30 Berkeley

Family bonus… Summertime Science Sat 11:00 Oakland

We are so lucky to live in these times in the SF Bay Area. What a wealth of learning opportunities we have. Here’s a few items I have stumbled across that I think are worth a look at…

Here’s all you need to know to get out and take a shower under the Perseids…

The annual Perseid meteor shower (arguably the best meteor shower
of the year) will peak on the nights of August 11/12 (Saturday) and
(probably slightly more) 12/13 (Sunday), but the nights of 10/11 (Friday)
and 13/14 (Monday) should be pretty good as well. View them after
midnight (or better, after 1 or 2 am); the predawn hours should yield
the largest hourly rate. [Before about midnight, relatively few
Perseids are visible (though they might be longer streaks than average,
skimming through Earth’s atmosphere because the “radiant” from which
they appear to come will be closer to the horizon).] Also, you don’t
have to account for your specific *time zone* — the times I list above
are fine regardless of where you are (though the northern hemisphere
is much more favorable than the southern hemisphere). Moonlight won’t
be a problem this year, as this weekend is new moon.

The meteor shower occurs because Earth flies through debris from Comet
Swift-Tuttle, and the little bits of rock and ice will burn up as they
zip through Earth’s upper atmosphere (altitude about 60 miles) at
nearly 130,000 miles/hour. (“Shooting stars” or “falling stars” are
not stars at all, of course!)

I encourage you to view the meteor shower, for at least half an hour
(but an hour or longer is better). Try to get as far away from city
lights as possible. The Perseids are known for having many bright
meteors that should be visible even in a somewhat light-polluted
sky, though you’ll see many more from a darker location. No
binoculars or telescopes are needed; just look at the sky with
your unaided eyes from as dark a location as possible. Choose an
open sky, without buildings or trees in the way. Dress warmly, and
bring a hot beverage if you want to. Bug spray might be useful,
too, depending on where you are. You can lie down on a blanket or
a reclining lawn chair for comfort, if you wish.

Looking anywhere in the sky is fine, but views to the northeast should
provide the most meteors. If you have clear skies, you might see 1-3
dozen per hour.

There are many useful references with additional information and
viewing tips, etc., type “Perseid meteor shower 2018” in your
favorite search engine; see, for example, .

Thanks again to Alex Filippenko What Has Astrophysics Done For You Lately?

So go out and celebrate how lucky we are by learning something new.

Peace and Pedals
herbert a. masters III
ScienceSchmoozer and a shameless promoter of:
the SciSchmooze email list:

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