Catch the Perseid Meteor Shower this weekend at the George Observatory!

We’re hosting late-night this weekend.

On Saturday, August 10, the George Observatory will be staying open until the wee ours of 2 a.m. in order to proffer the best possible viewing of the annual Perseid Meteor Shower.

Each year in mid-August, a stream of debris ejected by the Swift-Tuttle comet, called the Perseid cloud, becomes visible to stargazers as a meteor shower.

Night at the ObservatoryPhoto courtesy of Sergio Garcia Rill Photography

These “shooting stars” are actually streaks of light that occur when tiny dust particles in the comet’s debris trail collide with and are vaporized by the Earth’s atmosphere.

Want to know more about the science behind meteor showers? Check out this great video from space.com:

Normal park entrance fees ($7 per person; free for children 12 and younger) apply.

As always, personal telescopes are welcome! The shower is also visible to the naked eye. Lawn chairs, bug spray, snacks and blankets are encouraged.

Seeing Stars with James Wooten: August 2013

Venus remains in the west at dusk. It outshines everything but the Sun and Moon, so you can begin observing it during deep twilight. As August ends, Venus begins to approach Saturn.

Saturn is now shining in the south/southwest at dusk. Although not as bright as Venus, it does outshine the stars around it, so you can’t miss it. Jupiter is higher in the morning sky this month. Look for it in the east at dawn.

Mars, much dimmer than Jupiter, now pulls away from it in the morning sky. Look for it to Jupiter’s lower left in the morning sky at dawn.

Seeing Stars with James Wooten

The Big Dipper is to the left of the North Star, with its handle pointing up. From that handle, you can ‘arc to Arcturus’ and then ‘speed on to Spica’; those stars are in the south at dusk.  Leo, the Lion, sets in the west at dusk.

Antares, brightest star of Scorpius, the Scorpion, is in the south, with the ‘teapot’ of Sagittarius to its left. The Summer Triangle is high in the east. The stars of summer are here. Meanwhile, the Great Square of Pegasus begins to rise in the east, indicating that fall is near.

Moon Phases in August 2013:

New                                August 8, 2:15 am
1st Quarter                    August 15, 10:19 pm
Full                                 August 22, 1:15 pm
Last Quarter                 August 29, 12:44pm

The Perseid meteor shower peaks on Monday morning, August 12, as it does every year in mid-August. As always, we see more meteors in the pre-dawn hours, because that’s when Earth rotates us into the meteor stream. The Perseids have a broad peak, meaning that quite a few meteors are visible for a few days before and after the best date.

Thus, you’ll still see quite a few meteors if you come to George Observatory on Saturday night, August 10 and stay into Sunday morning, August 11. We’ll be open until 2 am, long enough for the shower to get good. Keep in mind that this is a meteor shower with, on average, one meteor per minute, and not a meteor storm, which would average about one meteor per second.

On most clear Saturday nights at the George Observatory, you can hear me do live star tours on the observation deck with a green laser pointer. If you’re there, listen for my announcement.

To enjoy the stars in any weather from the comfort of the HMNS Planetarium, click here for a full schedule.

Up for a challenge? Join us at the George Observatory on Saturday for Rocket Day, get special access to simulated space flight!

Attendees at The George Observatory’s Rocket Day this Saturday morning will have more than water rockets to show for it.

After a morning of learning about rockets and how they work, kids will build their own water rockets and launch them with the help of adult volunteers.

Afterwards, children and their parents can enter The Challenger Center, board the S.S. Observer and embark on a mission to the Moon, participating in real astronaut training and learning how problem-solving can make or break any mission.

Challenger Learning Center

Our simulated space flights are usually reserved for large groups, so Rocket Day represents a rare chance to enjoy simulated space flight for individuals! The mission is most appropriate for ages 7 and up; children 7 to 9 will need adult supervision.

Once you’re done exploring outer space, why not explore Brazos Bend State Park? With six lakes, multiple hiking trails and a fantastic hands-on nature center there is plenty to do and see.

In fact, stay all day and join us Saturday night for the Perseid Meteor Shower Party! Meteors will become visible around 10 p.m. and will become more frequent as dawn approaches. Snacks, blankets and sleeping babes are welcome.

To learn more about Rocket Day and our simulated space missions, please call 281-242-3055 or visit our website.

What: Rocket Day at the George Observatory
When: Saturday, August 11; 10 a.m. to noon
Where: The George Observatory at Brazos Bend State Park. Please note that regular park entrance fees apply: $7 per person, free for kids 12 and under.
How much: $20 per child, free for adults

Proof you can shower once a year and still get people excited: The Perseid Meteor Shower hits Saturday!

Showering once a year? It works for the Perseid cloud!

Each year in mid-August, a stream of debris ejected by the Swift-Tuttle comet, called the Perseid cloud, becomes visible to stargazers — as a meteor shower.

These “shooting stars” are actually streaks of light that occur when tiny dust particles in the comet’s debris trail collide with and are vaporized by the Earth’s atmosphere.

Perseus and Perseid MeteorA composite photo of the 2010 Perseid Meteor Shower

The Perseid Meteor Shower has been observed for approximately 2,000 years and was first recorded by stargazers in the Far East.

It’s best to get out of the city and away from light pollution to view the shower, so the George Observatory at Brazos Bend State Park is hosting a viewing party this Saturday, August 11. Meteors may become visible around 10 p.m., but will grow more frequent as dawn approaches.

Says HMNS Astronomer James Wooten: “You will see more meteors in pre-dawn hours than right after dusk. This is because the Earth is running into the stream of meteors rather than the other way around. As a result, the leading edge of the Earth — the side going from night to day — encounters the meteors. Meteors will seem to radiate from a constellation called Perseus (hence the name “Perseids”). In August, Perseus rises in the northeast at dusk and is high in the north at dawn. Thus, meteors will seem to radiate from the northeast.”

The George will stay open until 2 a.m. August 12 to accommodate people who want to view the full spectacle of this stunning celestial shower.

Normal park entrance fees ($7 per person; free for children 12 and younger) apply. Tickets for the Gueymard Telescope are $5 and go on sale at 5 p.m. Tickets to view the night sky through our 11-inch refractor and other large domes will be available for $5 from 9 p.m. until midnight.

As always, personal telescopes are welcome! The shower is also visible to the naked eye. Lawn chairs, bug spray, snacks and blankets are encouraged.