How to spot a shooting star

“It’s just a matter of looking at the sky,” explains Hakeem Oluseyi, astrophysicist and author of “A Quantum Life: My improbable Journey...


“It’s just a matter of looking at the sky,” explains Hakeem Oluseyi, astrophysicist and author of “A Quantum Life: My improbable Journey From the Streets to the Stars”. “The question is: do you notice it? »You don’t need fancy equipment; the naked eye is the best. “Usually any technical equipment you use will restrict your field of vision,” says Oluseyi. Move away from the light of the city – “the darker the better,” he says – and find a place with the most visible sky possible, such as a place in the mountains or in the desert. Close your eyes for a few minutes to speed up their adaptation to the dark. “If you are to have lights,” says Oluseyi, “they should be red lights.”

What we call shooting stars are pieces of comets and asteroids that can be seen year round. But many more shooting stars are visible when earth passes through fields of debris around the same time each year. “We call these meteor showers,” says Oluseyi. The Perseids and Leonids are generally the most reliable, in August and November. They are as predictable as the Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone, he says. During other times of the year, check the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Space Weather Prediction Center for updates. “It’s like a fishing trip: you check the weather first because you want to know what’s going on in the sky before you go,” says Oluseyi. Also check Earth’s weather in advance.

Even on a clear day it can take a while, sometimes a few hours, before you see what you want, so go with friends to make long outings more engaging. You don’t have to limit yourself to just waiting for shooting stars. Indeed, it is sometimes useful to look for other things. “You can search for satellites, constellations, and double stars,” says Oluseyi. “You can try to find Andromeda. Every time I go to a new place, all over the earth, I have to see what the night sky looks like from where I am. Look up and be amazed by the shooting stars: “Suddenly you see something out of the corner of your eye and you turn your head and this shiny thing, like ‘Woo’ happens.”

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