June 20th, 2018

Praxis: Always an eyeful in the night sky

By Medicine Hat News on August 12, 2017.

What would summer be like without camping? I know many of you will be going with family, friends or relatives in the coming weeks, and I thought if you get bored, you could always introduce some science into your fun and exciting times in the great outdoors. All joking aside, there are some spectacular sky science events happening this summer and there is phenomenal viewing of these events when you are away from all of the light pollution of the city lights. Let’s investigate further!

*Remember to ask an adult before doing this experiment.


— dark location outside under the stars

— blanket or comfortable lounge chair so you can look up at the sky

— bug spray

— snacks

— drinks

— red filtered flashlight

— star charts

— eyes


1. Before you leave, download a good star chart so you can identify when constellations, planets and stars are above you. I find that skymaps.com has some great charts that are always up to date. Make sure you have enough to share with everyone.

2. Find a good location out in a dark location away from any light pollution. You may have to go for a bit of a drive if you are not out camping in the great outdoors.

3. Set up your lounge chair or blanket in a comfortable location. Make sure you have a good view of the night sky unobstructed by any trees or building that may be near you. It may take about 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the darkness and try to not look at bright lights while your eyes are adjusting. This is why you should use a flashlight with a red filter on it.

4. Lay back and watch the sky!

What is going on?

There are many meteor showers every year. A meteor shower is an increase in the number of meteors or “shooting stars” that will streak across the night sky. Most meteor showers are a result of comets. When a comet orbits around the sun, it lets off an icy, dusty stream of debris in its path of orbit. When the earth travels in this path, we will see the meteor shower.

Meteor showers are named for the constellation that coincides with the region in the sky, a spot known as the radiant. For instance, the Perseid meteor shower is named because meteors appear to fall from the point in the constellation Perseus. This is the meteor shower you will be looking for tonight. Find the constellation Perseus and keep an eye out here. You should be able to see about 80 meteors an hour and upwards of 150 meteors during the peak period of about two or three a minute. Of course, you will have to contend with the bright waning gibbous moon.

Patty Rooks is senior scientific consultant at PRAXIS, “Connecting Science To The Community.” Contact Praxis at praxis@praxismh.ca, http://www.praxismh.ca, Tweet or follow us @PraxisMedHat, or friend us on Facebook.

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