Meteor observing is a fulfilling activity, one that can quicken the pulse faster than anything else. But it’s not always that easy to catch a prolific meteor shower. Amateurs often get tangled between equipment, reports, and planning the observation. As a result, they miss out on the action and fail to see the magnificent celestial phenomena.
To avoid such mishaps, we decided to compile a list of the most important things you need for meteor observing.
Our list is not long – it contains only three items – so it’s bound to help you with your future observations.
We know you are more than ready to dive into the subject, so we’ll get to the point at once. Here are the most important things you need for meteor observing.
Before you get to witness some of the most beautiful experiences in the world, you need to prepare. And by prepare, we mean extensive research and careful planning of the upcoming shower.
That includes keeping track of the shower calendars. The calendar should become the number one reference point for your investigation. Most showers have schedules, i.e. standard periods when they are active the most. Additionally, there are showers all year round, so there is always something exciting to anticipate. Here is a tip – you can find the calendar at MeteorObs too!
In the days before the shower, you should also check the peak days. Each shower has a peak, so it can come in handy to know when to look for it. While peak days are the same for everyone on Earth, time zones that we live in are not. Hence, check the time in your time zone and form a timetable for your meteor observation.
Another vital part of a meteor observer’s adventure is equipment. After researching the shower, you should decide on the appropriate conditions for the observation. For instance, the season is an essential factor. Observing in summer and winter is not the same! If you are watching the Perseids, it is easy because this shower happens in August. The weather is warm, but you still need a blanket or warm clothes during chilly summer nights.
Once you secured warm clothes, it’s time to start thinking about observation equipment. Some astronomers propose the use of telescopes for smaller showers. However, such material is often expensive, so it might be challenging to obtain it at first. But if you already have a telescope, that’s great.
What we do recommend is using cameras to film the skies. You never know what you might see, so it is good to have at least one piece of equipment. For instance, video cameras are great because they can create videos of the entire event. We do not recommend snapping photos, as it is easy to miss a great picture because everything happens fast.
Some amateurs watch meteor showers just for the kicks. The feeling is unmatched – watching something precious is exhilarating. But most amateur astronomers go through all that preparatory hassle to gather important data. Therefore, data collection should be your primary goal.
The basic equipment for data collection includes a pen and a notebook. If you are observing a shower for the first time, it is best to start small. Record the hourly rate by marking each meteor that passes in an hour. For the next hour, mark everything on a new paper, and so on.
The breadth of your data collection can include various other information but limit yourself to primary info for first observations.
Don’t forget that watching a meteor shower will not always result in a prolific celestial show with thousands of meteors. In most cases, you will be able to see dozens of meteors in the span of a few hours.
Nevertheless, don’t get discouraged – meteor showers are as unpredictable as any extraterrestrial phenomena. Just relax and write down your findings. If you are fortunate, you might spot a fireball – and that’s a finding that you should definitely report!
If you wish to learn more about meteor observing, check our FAQ page where we answer all critical questions.