Star gazers in for a celestial treat

2015-08-11 10:37
A meteor streaks across the sky against a field of stars during a meteor shower near Grazalema, Spain. (Jorge Guerrero, AFP, file)

A meteor streaks across the sky against a field of stars during a meteor shower near Grazalema, Spain. (Jorge Guerrero, AFP, file)

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METEOR fanatics are in for a treat when the Perseid meteor shower will be in full view for the whole country this week.

The spectacle, which began at the weekend, is most visible for those living in the northern parts of the country, but local astronomers say that with a clear sky it will be visible to many.

Amith Rajpal, vice chairperson of the Astronomical Society of Southern African’s Durban Centre, said that he witnessed the shower recently.

“The phenomenon takes place every year. When the Earth is orbiting the ­solar system it catches dust and ­meteors which get attracted by the Earth’s gravitational pull,” he said.

Rajpal said that the shower would be most visible between 12 am and 2 am during a clear night’s sky.

“Best conditions to view the meteor shower would be in a darkened sky. If you try to view the shower in well-lit conditions the light might wash out the sight of the meteors,” he said.

The meteors will be visible to the ­naked eye with around 60 meteors ­visible per hour.

Rajpal said that trying to view the shower through a telescope might limit the view of them.

He also encouraged people who have decent cameras to capture the shower.

“If you have a Digital Single Lens Reflex camera shooting the meteor shower with a wide-angle lens on a tripod will make for the best pictures,” he said.

Cloudy weather is expected in ­Pietermaritzburg today and tomorrow, with clear skies expected on Thursday and Friday.

If you get pictures of the Perseid meteor shower, send them to us. E-mail them to Newsed@witness.co.za Post them on Facebook on our page www.facebook.com/WitnessKZN or tweet them to @WitnessKZN.

Three tips to get the best viewing of a meteor shower:

1. Get to a dark area: As Amith ­Rajpal says, trying to view a meteor shower in a well-lit area will ­wash out their visibility.

2. Stay warm and cosy: As it is ­winter, you can expect night ­temperatures to be in the single digits, so stay warm, grab a blanket and a lawn chair.

3. Put your cellphone away: not ­only is a cellphone distracting, viewing a white screen for extended periods will only allow your eyes to re-adjust to the darkness after 30 minutes, which will result in the viewer missing out on the sky show

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