Lou (12 Aug 2011)
": Perseids Meteor Showers this Weekend!"

Expect a star shower this weekend
Published 01:00 a.m., Tuesday, August 9, 2011

South Texas Stargazing

The San Antonio Astronomical Association invites you to participate in all of its public astronomy events. It's free, and you can view the calendar at www.sanantonioastronomy.org.

The Perseid meteor shower is coming to town, and it's famous for putting pizzazz in the night sky.

The shower peaks Friday and Saturday, but a full moon Saturday will hamper seeing all but the brightest meteors as they streak across the night sky.

If you are determined to catch a few, find a place that is away from light pollution and position yourself so the moon is out of view. Use a building or tree to block the moon and you should be able to see a few of the brighter Perseids as they arrive from the northeast after midnight.

A bright International Space Station pass will be visible Friday morning.

Gaze toward the northwest at 6:03 a.m. for a moving speck of light.

The ISS will continue its trek high across the predawn sky and fly through Taurus around 6:05 a.m. and then glide beside the bright star Rigel marking Orion's foot a minute later.

The pass will end at 6:08 a.m. in the southeast.

If you're not an early bird, the ISS makes another appearance Friday evening at 8:57 p.m. in the southwest.

Watch for it to move through the stinger area of Scorpius the scorpion at 8:59 p.m. and then glide through the teapot shape of Sagittarius 30 seconds later.

The station will continue in an arc and fly above the moon after its encounter with Sagittarius and then vanish in the northeast at 9:03 p.m.

If you want to challenge yourself with an unusual target, try finding the bright asteroid Vesta.

Vesta sits in the constellation Capricornus, the goat, and can be spied as a 6th magnitude stellar spot of light.

It's really easy to find with the star map at nakedeyeplanets.com/vesta-2011.htm.

You'll need binoculars to aid in the search, but once you find it, you might be able to view it with the naked eye depending on your sky conditions.

If you're not sure you have located Vesta, make a quick sketch of the star field and then wait a few nights and look again. If the little speck of light moves, then you've hit the jackpot.

An image of Vesta can be found at www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/dawn/multimedia/dawn-image-070911.html.

If the name Vesta sounds familiar, it's because it's been in the news lately and you've heard stories about NASA's Dawn spacecraft orbiting it.

Dawn began orbiting Vesta July 15, and will study this rocky asteroid for a year, after which it will fly to its second target, the dwarf planet Ceres in 2012.

This will be the first time a spacecraft will orbit two solar system targets beyond Earth.

E-mail Becky Ramotowski at skywatch@beckster.cotse.net. Skywatch appears Tuesdays.