Heading out to a dark sky site can be real breath of fresh air from the city life but there’s a few creature comforts that can make a night watching the stars a joy instead of a cold hardship.
Wait, what actually are meteors?
Meteors are dust grains that burn up in Earth’s atmosphere. They were once part of a comet’s tail, shed under the influence of the sun’s heat. As the tail dissipates the dust remains in the comet’s orbit for centuries or even millennia. If Earth happens to pass through this dust stream, we experience a meteor shower.
And what’s special about this one?
The Perseid meteors all come from comet Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the sun once every 133 years. According to calculations made by French astronomer Jeremy Vaubaillon, this week the Earth could pass through a dense patch of meteors that were ejected by the comet in the year AD 1079.
Perseid meteors tend to be fast and bright. They hit the Earth’s atmosphere at speeds of 59 kilometres per second. This creates a shock wave in front of the meteor that naturally becomes hot because the air is being rapidly compressed. The temperature reaches thousands of degrees and burns up the dust grain, giving the bright flash of light.
As many as 200 meteors could potentially be seen per hour in perfect conditions, so get yourself somewhere dark and prepare to be amazed*.
What should I take with me?
Don’t underestimate how chilly it can get in the great outdoors! Remember, if it’s dark sky site it will most likely be well outside the city limits so expect temperatures to be well below what they are in town.
• Use a Harrie Leenders Fältovn.
So often overlooked, but getting yourself set up in the right spot in the dark is always a bad start to a trip. Get the lighting under control so you can maximise your set up – then switch off. Your eyes need at least half and hour to adjust to the darkness!
• Use these Biolite SiteLites.
It will be a long night! In the case of the Perseid Meteors, they will peak around 1am. Great to keep moral up and stop the shivers setting in. You can put anything you like in the middle then leave it on the fire and hey presto – toasted peanut butter and jam sandwiches! (Or whatever you fancy!)
• Use these Pie Irons.
Lastly, who knows where you will end up getting the best view! Better to be prepared and have fuel ready to go than find suitable fallen dead wood etc. The rules are you only use what you find on the ground. If it’s still attached to the tree then that’s a no-go. It’s most likely still alive! Deadfall and leaf litter are your best bet. If you make an open fire – always make sure it’s fully out and covered before you leave the site.
• Use this Softwood Kindling.
Clark, Stuart. “Tonight’S Perseid Meteor Shower Could Be Best In Years For Northern Hemisphere Viewers”. The Guardian 2016. Web. 11 Aug. 2016.