On the night of August 11th atop the Killdeer Observation Mound at the Wellington Reservation, a large group gathered last to watch for Perseid meteors.
Earlier in the week I'd volunteered to do a night sky program for the occasion and had been studying up in preparation. When Rob and I arrived at the mound around 9:45 pm, four early birds had already claimed their prime blanket spots and were eagerly watching the sky. I introduced myself and offered to give them a preview tour of the constellations. It was great fun! The four were attentive, asked a lot of questions, and perhaps spurred on by their interest and enthusiasm, I performed with confidence and excitement. We also saw what ended up being the best meteor of the night...a brilliant green Earthgrazer that streaked through Hercules and left behind a trail visible even in the darkness and (unfortunately) gathering haze.
The rest of the group--33 in all--arrived a little after 10:00 pm. Led to the mound by park naturalist Becky Bode, most carried blankets or lawn chairs and hurriedly scuffled around for the best observation spots. Once settled, Becky asked everyone to shut off ALL light-producing devices and introduced me as a representative of the Black River Astronomical Society. I jumped in to an explanation of the Perseids' origin and advice about how best to observe them. By this point, more and more of the sky was becoming obscured by thin clouds, so I stressed that even if we didn't end up seeing many tonight, there were likely to be Perseids visible for the next few days. And even if worse came to worse (this is Ohio after all), and the whole rest of the shower ended up entirely clouded out, I advised them to check out spaceweatherradio.com and listen to the radar echoes of meteors shooting through the upper atmosphere high above the clouds.
The night's second constellation tour was a little less successful. In the thickening haze, even the Big Dipper and the normally striking Summer Triangle were starting to look a little washed out. Still, there were moments of clarity, and toward the end of the night's observation it was possible to discern the glowing clouds of the Milky Way from their earthbound counterparts.
The majority of our group picked up at 11:30 and headed back, but Rob and I hung around for a few extra minutes chatting with Becky and watching the sky with another young BRAS member who'd brought his camera and tripod up the mound to try for some meteor photos. On our way back to park headquarters (about a mile from Killdeer Mound), Becky pulled out a bat detector and we stopped to listen to the low fluttering of wings whirring softly through the night air.
Another Perseid program is scheduled for tonight at the Wellington Reservation. I really hope the forecasted scattered thundershowers will scatter elsewhere!