Tips for observing meteor showers
Because a telescope provides a detailed look at a very small part of the sky, telescopes are not very useful for watching a meteor shower. To watch a meteor shower, you need to be able to watch as much of the sky as possible, and the best way to do that is to watch by eye, without optical aid.
- A lounge chair that allows you to lie on your back and tilt your gaze to about three-quarters the way up from the horizon to the zenith, the point directly overhead.
- A coat, sleeping bag, and blankets to stay warm.
- Keep your eyes dark adapted. It is important not to look at bright light (including from your phone) for at least 10 minutes before you start your watch and until you are through.
Count the number of meteors seen in one hour – a basic scientific measurement that is made during a meteor shower.
Measure the brightness – each meteor can be compared to the brightness (stellar magnitude) of known stars or planets. If you know the constellations and can identify stars, you can refine the data as you collect it.
Perseid or random meteor – it is possible that not every meteor you see is from the shower you are observing. The path of a meteor of a particular shower appears to point back to a point called the radiant. The name of the shower comes from the constellation around the radiant – the Perseid meteor shower from the the constellation Perseus.
If you have a cell phone or other device with sound recording capability, you can record your comments about meteors while you watch, without having to take your eyes off the sky.