Perseid Meteor Shower

The Perseid meteor shower is underway!

We know a meteor shower is going to be good when it produces dozens of fireballs a week before the shower peaks. This is the Perseids. The best meteor shower of the year peaks Aug. 11th-13th when Earth passes through a stream of debris from comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle.  37 Perseid fireballs were counted during the weekend of Aug. 4th-5th. One was almost as bright as the Moon.

The Perseid meteor shower is always good, but this year should be super-good. We’ll have a New Moon at the shower’s peak, giving us a dark sky, giving us as many as 100 meteors per hour. As usual, the best time to look is during the dark hours before sunrise, so check it out on Sunday, August 12th, and again on Monday, August 13th. At those early hours , the shower’s point of origin will be high in the sky, and meteors will appear to go in all directions.

If you can, get away from city lights to a dark place, and look up. The Perseids can appear in any part of the sky, but all of their trails will point back toward the constellation Perseus.

If midnight to 5 am is too late (or early) for you, try looking for Perseids around 10 pm when the point of origin (radiant) is just at the northern horizon. At that time, meteors skim the top of the atmosphere, producing long colorful fireballs called “Earthgrazers.” There won’t be many, but even one is impressive. Enjoy the show!

How We do Things

Back in March, I posted an article about what we do. But I also want you to know a little bit about how we do things.

I hope you will allow me to be honest with you, and I hope no one takes offence at what I say. Some have described me as being “brutally” honest, and I admit that I am. I usually like to get right to the point and much of the time, I don’t know what diplomacy/tact means. So, if I may express myself, I’ll try to get diplomatically/tactfully to the point.

I, we, at Imperial Polk Astronomical Society love what we do, whether its looking through a telescope at a distant galaxy under clear skies, learning about a new astronomical discovery, or standing in front of a group of people, explaining the wonders of the universe; it’s a passion.

When it comes to our presentation/observing sessions, I personally enjoy every aspect of these sessions. I enjoy having a group who are eager to learn more about all of the “stuff” out there. I especially enjoy having the kids in attendance. They always ask the most challenging questions. And after the presentation, when the weather permits, we get our scopes out and view the wonders of the universe “up close and personal”. It’s always a thrill to see the expressions on faces as they look through a telescope, especially when it’s for the first time, and hear the familiar “Oh wow!” when they realize they’re looking at something millions of light years away, or just billions of miles away.

A few people come to our events because they’re amateur astronomers and want to join a group of like-minded people. Others come to learn something about astronomy from the presentation and enjoy the view through the telescopes. Some bring a telescope to have us check it out or to learn how to use it. Others come mainly to get a view through the scopes (and that’s OK), but usually enjoy the presentation anyway.

Recently, I’ve had some calls asking if our event is cancelled because the weather doesn’t look good. And I know that people don’t come when the weather is not so conducive to looking through a telescope. But let me urge you to come anyway.  The presentations are educational, basic enough that anyone 6 to 96 (or more) can understand it, and entertaining as well. We encourage participation in our presentations. We welcome any questions about the presentation or astronomy in general, and we’ll tell you what is fact and what is theory.

So, what’s my point? Just this: Our “regular” Astronomy Night presentation is always indoors or at least under cover where the weather doesn’t bother us and can’t stop us. Most are indoors with A/C or heat so its comfortable. This means that the show goes on whatever the weather may be. Obviously, if the weather is bad, we won’t be getting the scopes out for viewing. They don’t take too well to rain. But the presentation goes on “rain or shine”! So don’t let the weather stop you from coming out. Obviously, for observing sessions only, if the weather is bad, there will be no viewing. But if you live in our Central Florida area, you’re familiar with our weather, especially in the Summer months. But, just because it’s raining where you are now, that doesn’t mean it’s raining a half mile away. Nor does it mean that it will be raining a half hour from now. We have seen the rain and clouds dissipate within 30-45 minutes and yield to clear (or clear enough) skies. So, brave the weather, come out, and hope for the best. It has happened.

Well, there it is. I just want everyone to know that weather doesn’t stop us. We’re serious about what we do and a little rain won’t stop us. A hurricane, yes. A little rain, NO!

So, I hope no one has been offended, I’ve been as “diplomatic” as I know how.  I welcome any questions or comments you may have.

Thanks for your time,

Cleve, President, Imperial Polk Astronomical Society

Parker Solar Probe Update

Back in mid-March, we posted an article about sending your name to the Sun on the Parker Solar Probe. The probe successfully completed a round of tests mimicking the conditions the spacecraft will face in space throughout its seven-year mission, including checking the spacecraft’s functions under hot and cold extremes, cycling the temperatures in a thermal vacuum chamber back and forth between hot and cold, making sure Parker Solar Probe’s systems and components operate properly.

Parker, shown here inside half of its fairing in Titusville, FL,  went through its final  encapsulation at Astrotech Space Operations before its move to the Cape Canaveral complex. Parker’s launch vehicle will be a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy.,  the second largest payload delivery system in the world. Only the new SpaceX Falcon Heavy is larger.

The Delta IV uses two liquid fuel boosters and a second stage to achieve orbit. The first stage and two boosters produce 710,000 pounds of thrust each. That’s a lot of horsepower.

The probe is designed to travel through the Sun’s corona, the outer layer of its atmosphere, at a temperature of 2,500 degrees F, 4 million miles from the Sun’s surface. The shield protecting the four groups of instruments is like nothing designed before. The probe will travel at a speed of about 430,000 mph.

The Parker Solar Probe’s launch date is now set for August 11, 2018.

Stay tuned as we get closer to launch date and thereafter. We’re sure you’ll want to know more about the Sun as the data comes in.