During the night from Friday to Saturday, Earth will pass close to Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, whose debris is supposed to be producing a meteor shower. Astronomers give their advice on the best way to enjoy this spectacle of nature.
As you look up over the next few nights, you’ll likely see more and more comets crossing the sky. If the Perseid season begins on July 17, then during the night from Friday to Saturday, August 12 and 13, it will be much more pronounced.
On this day, Earth passes close to comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the sun. If the comet is indeed far from the Solar System, we can observe the path of its debris drifting at a speed of 59 km/s.
“These are little bits of dust and ice that start to burn as they enter the atmosphere,” explains James Cleland, an amateur astronomer in Edmundston who laments the unfavorable conditions this year for observing these streaks of light.
“It will be almost full moon, there may be plenty of light and forecast overcast skies right now.”
“For those who abandoned Perseids this summer, I disagree!” says Robert Lunsford, Secretary General of the International Meteoritic Society, on the organization’s website.
Despite the full moon, he claims that “meteorite rates will still be 95% better than any other night this year.”
To better observe this rare phenomenon, you should still get up early (or go to bed late) because the best observation window is on Saturday between 3 and 4 am.
“In theory, the best time to observe Perseids is just before dawn, when radiation is at its highest in a darkened sky,” the International Meteorological Society explains.
Astronomers also advise placing your back to the moon so as not to be dazzled by its brightness, in a place as secluded as possible from artificial lights, and turning off the phone a while ago to accustom your eyes to the darkness.
Meteorites International also encourages observers to participate in the research by counting the number of meteorites seen over at least one hour and sharing a form to fill out on its website.
If these conditions seem impossible, don’t panic, “the meteors will be clearly visible until next Wednesday,” assures James Cleland.
“The main thing is to enjoy watching the fireworks in nature,” concludes Robert Lunsford.
When the starry sky becomes a tourist attraction
“We don’t need lights at night. In summer we can see very clearly until 11:30 p.m., and in winter we don’t need outside lights,” James Cleland, Edmundston Astronomy Club member fumes, sees the lights in the parks. It is lit until 4 am.
However, light pollution continues to increase at an average rate of 2% per year worldwide, according to the International Dark Sky Association, which aims to “preserve our dark-sky heritage thanks to high-quality outdoor lighting.”
These spaces free from any light pollution are becoming increasingly rare, and have become popular places, especially for tourists. Effects on sleep, respect for biodiversity and stargazing, there are many benefits to maintaining nights without light. The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) has recognized this and has been awarding marks since 2000 for landscape parks protected from artificial light.
In New Brunswick, Kouchibouguac National Park on the east coast and Mount Carleton Provincial Park in Restigouche have been designated “dark sky reserves” since 2009. Then real tourism develops to lure urbanites in search of natural darkness, from astronomical instrument kits to night-guided excursions.
“Fortunately, there are still empty places in New Brunswick to enjoy the stars,” James Cleland assures, as some astronomy clubs try to adapt by investing in beaches or even golf courses after dark.
“Hardcore beer fanatic. Falls down a lot. Professional coffee fan. Music ninja.”