Article written by Von Oliver Debus
Translated by Mu-tien Chiou
That is wonderful. The sun is shining, there is not a cloud in the sky and the stars twinkle at night. Granted, anyone could put down the thermostat of the celestial heater (our sun) by a few degrees. But I will not complain about the unbearable heat in my eyes without mentioning how much I now look forward to the soon approaching winter. After all, on the morning starry sky Auriga (御夫座), Taurus (金牛座) and Orion (獵戶座) announces when the cold season is on.
There is yet another reason to rejoice for me and all star fellow fans. Because it’s August and the nights are getting longer and darker. Now we can enjoy the summer sky with the formative constellations Lyra (天琴座), Aquila (天鷹座) and Cygnus (天鵝座). The three main star- Vega (織女星) in Lyra, in Altair (牽牛星) in the Aquila, and Deneb (天津四) in the Cygnus- form together the famous Summer Triangle (夏季大三角) star fellowship. If you’re lucky and can escape the unfortunately strong light pollution in the Rhine-Main area, you will be able to enjoy the constellations through the three writhing Milky Way.
August is welcomed by amateur astronomers as a month of shooting stars. At no other time of the year is there as many meteors to be seen. Especially towards the middle of the month we can see it flashing recurrently at night. Sure, we may make a wish for something, and who knows, one or the other wish may at some time come true.
Four meteoroid streams are accountable for this celestial spectacle, from which the meteor shower of Perseid (英仙座流星群) is the best known and most prolific. They are named after the constellation Perseus (珀爾修斯/英仙), as it looks like the shooting stars are rising from the constellation. The Perseid meteors are fragments of the comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle (母彗109P/史威福-塔托彗星) whose orbit crosses the Earth in August. If you travel with the car on the highway through a swarm of mosquitoes, the mosquitoes will patter on the windshield. So like it when the Earth runs into the comet’s orbit. Then the comet piece patter with 60 kilometers per second to the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up with a luminous trace. What we see are falling stars. If they were large fragments and if the meteor survived the flight through the Earth’s atmosphere, we can find a meteorite.
If you want to find such a mass [of celestial remains], you should just watching the night sky carefully. The best time to look for the shooting stars is between 10 in the evening to 4 in the morning. Most of the Perseid meteors occur during 10th to 14th of August. You need no binoculars or telescopes to observe; best to settle down with a chair and just watch the starry sky. The view towards the direction of the constellation Perseus, which rises slowly above the northeastern horizon, although recommended, is not absolute.
Whoever like to take time recording meteors with his camera should best use a SLR camera body with a wide angle lens or a fish-eye lens mounted on a tripod. Using a cable release, you can then make multiple images with exposure times of about 60 seconds.
I wish you clear nights with exiting observations and many shooting stars.