Meteor Alert: Perseid Shower Now Active (Update)

The 2004 Perseid meteor shower (© Fred Bruenjes)
The 2004 Perseid meteor shower (© Fred Bruenjes)

Update (1:30am PST): Spotted three very bright and several dim meteors in a 10 minute observation period (not bad for LA skies!). The bright meteors left strong, and long-lasting ionization trails that were visible for a couple of seconds. It can only get more active, so I’ll be back outside soon…

OK, so for my second attempt at seeing the Perseid meteor shower, I’m donning the shorts and T-shirt (not your usual astronomy garb, but this is California!) and getting out into the back yard. I’ll be looking North-East, through a clearing in the palm trees and keeping an eye open for the Perseus constellation. As you can probably tell, I’m no practical astronomer, but my wonderful colleague Tammy Plotner’s enthusiastic writing is infectious and I want to catch some shooting stars with my own eyes!

Wish me luck…
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Observing Red Dwarf Stars May Reveal Habitable “Super-Earths” Sooner

A planet orbiting a red dwarf (NASA)

OK, so if you’re an exoplanet hunter, which stars would you focus your attention on? Would you look at bright blue young stars? Or would you look at dim, long-lived red stars? If you think about it, trying to see a small exoplanet eclipse (or transit) a very bright star would be very hard, the luminosity would overwhelm any attempt at seeing a tiny planet pass in front of the star. On the other hand, observing a planet transiting a dimmer stellar object, like a red dwarf star, any transit of even the smallest planet will create a substantial decrease in luminosity. What’s more, ground-based observatories can do the work rather than depending on expensive space-based telescopes…
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