11.-13.08.2021 – Observation of the Perseids

Observation report

Since this year’s maximum of the Perseids unfortunately fell on weekdays on which neither days off nor home office were scheduled, the observation was unfortunately only possible to a very limited extent. Especially since the working days were so exhausting at the moment, it would have been very difficult to observe one night throughout. If the next day had been connected to work in the home office, I would at least have kept an eye out for a few hours during the night, since the moon wasn’t there to disturb either.

But during the morning of August 13th, 2021 I was still able to see individual Perseids. So that I can take an empty bus (5:11 a.m.) to work, I usually get up around 4:15 a.m. My internal clock woke me up at 4 a.m., so I stared at the sky from the skylight for 15 minutes. Here I already saw 2 Perseids and 2-3 times it flickered in other directions. Because of the clear sky, these could not be thunderstorms, so I suspect that they were brighter Perseids. I left for the bus a little earlier and kept an eye out for meteors. On the way to the bus stop, I was able to spot another 3 Perseids during short breaks of walking, one of them a little brighter. When I arrived at the bus stop, I continued to look up at the sky, despite street lights all around. In fact, a meteor flitted over me, which I could see very well despite the bright surroundings. It was definitely not the nicest way to enjoy the Perseids, but it was a nice start to the day and I was glad I saw some at all. But of course I couldn’t take any photos.



General information to observe the Perseids 2021

As every year, a special astronomical highlight awaits us again this August, because the Perseids meteor shower will keep us busy the upcoming nights. These are fragments and debris from Comet 109P / Swift-Tuttle, through whose tail remains our planet slides annually. The activity maximum of the visible meteors / falling stars in the sky is expected in the night of 12th to 13th August. But even the nights around it is definitely worth looking out for meteors, because numerous objects will be observable there as well.


The best observation time

The best observation time for the coming nights is from 00:00 to 04:00. The meteors seem to come from the constellation Perseus, but can then light up all over the sky. So it is advisable to look for as free an area as possible so that you have a good all-round view. The meteors seem to come from the constellation Perseus. The constellation is still quite low in the northeast at 11 p.m. and then moves higher and higher in our sky during the night. At 4 o’clock it will be in the east. It is always said that the conditions get better, the higher the constellation with the radian (apparent origin of the meteors) is in the sky. That means that even in the late evening meteors are visible & nbsp; but the best conditions are after midnight until morning. As already described, the Perseids can light up all over the sky. They fly across the sky at a speed of around 59 km / s, which corresponds to a value of around 212,400 km / h. They are among the fastest meteor streams that we can observe from Earth.


Best observation night:

The absolutely best observation night with the highest hourly rates will be the night from Thursday to Friday (August 12-13). Most meteors are expected here (~ 50-100 meteors / hour). If the weather is not right, as already mentioned above, it is worth observing in the nights around where rates of up to 40 meteors per hour also seem realistic. So there too you have a very good chance of seeing some. But you should consider that we can only see the brighter meteors here, so that the highest possible rates are actually never seen here. In the past few years I have mostly been able to see between 30-40 meteors per hour during longer observation and that with limited visibility. The moon does not disturb the observation this year, because it sets with 20% illumination at around 11 p.m.


Current weather forecast:

On the night of 11.08. According to the current status, it should mostly be clear on August 12th, 2021, so that it may be worth observing here. On the evening of August 12th, 2021, a weather front is expected to move to the east, so that a lot of residual clouds are simulated here until late in the evening. At night it can clear up a bit at times, but more cloud fields are calculated, which can sometimes be larger. On the night of 08/13 On August 14th, 2021 it should initially be mostly clear, but then at times denser clouds can appear during the night. This is the current status with regard to the cloud forecast and until next week, there will definitely be a bit of postponement. Status: 07.08.2021, GFS 12z.


Photographing meteors?

You will quickly notice that photography of meteors requires a lot of luck – simply because you cannot know where the next meteor will appear. In addition, it happens every now and then that a meteor slips through exactly between two exposures. But that shouldn’t annoy anyone – just enjoy the fact that you’ve at least seen him with your eyes!

A digital single-lens reflex camera (DSLR), for example from Canon, is best for photography at night. With these you can easily take long-term exposures and useful pictures come out. Usually the “M” is selected as the program mode for manual settings. Here you can choose the exposure yourself. So that you have a better chance of getting something on it, you set the exposure to 20-30 seconds. Depending on the ambient light and general conditions, you have to test something to see how it fits. The so-called aperture can be set to the lowest value so that as much light as possible is captured (e.g. F 3.5). Then there is the ISO number, which is usually a good setting at 400. There are DSLRs that start with the noise at ISO 800, but you just have to try that. The good thing is that you can take a lot of test images and adjust the settings there. The camera lens should have as little zoom as possible, i.e. the smallest focal length so that you can cover as large an area of the sky as possible. The bigger this, the bigger the chance that something will be captured. To focus the celestial objects (that they are in focus) you can use a distant point of light or simply set it to infinity. If there are problems, just set manual focus on the lens and turn the ring of the lens a few times until it fits.

While you are photographing the sky you should never forget to enjoy the sky spectacle with your own eyes. There will always be meteors that can be seen with the eye, but which cannot be seen in the photo. These were then simply not bright enough to appear in the 20-30 seconds exposure time. The most important thing is to really enjoy the Perseids.

Success with photography can never be guaranteed, so active observation with the eyes is very important. And above all, you should definitely not let the mood spoil if there are no meteors in the pictures. The observation should be fun and of course exclusively positive. At the same time, you also have many options to make a wish ;-).


I wish you lots of fun and success while observing the Perseids!