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Paper Plate Education
"Serving the Universe on a Paper Plate"

Activity: Meteor Shower

Plot the paths of meteors to demonstrate how they appear to originate from a common area, called the radiant.  

Meteors from a shower appear to radiate outward from its namesake constellation, such as Perseus or Leo.  In this activity you create a sturdy star field on a paper plate.  While observing the meteor shower, draw onto the plate the paths of the meteors relative to the stars.

You can generate a star chart on your own or click the image below to enlarge a Perseids star chart or a Leonids star chart.

wpe1.gif (16533 bytes)

Leonids chart.gif (17033 bytes)

Perseids chart

Leonids chart

 

Meteor shower chart- Perseids.jpg (23593 bytes)To make starfields for a group of people, tape a star chart that is centered on the radiant onto a paper plate.  In this example the chart is centered on Perseus' brightest star Algenib, also known as the navigational star Mirfak.   Place the paper plate with the chart on top of a stack of paper plates.  

 

Meteor stack clamped.jpg (31576 bytes)  Clamp the stack of paper plates together.

Meteor_chart_drill_bitr.jpg (26419 bytes) Meteor Perseid chart drilled.jpg (28036 bytes)  Using a small drill bit, drill holes through the brightest stars to generate a stack of starfield plates.   

Meteors Perseid chart holes.jpg (11682 bytes) Meteor_chart_Perseus_labeled_zoom_1.jpg (15589 bytes)    Label the major stars (holes), constellations, asterisms, or mnemonic aids.   Match the stars on the plate with the actual sky.   Now bring on the meteors!

Write the starting and ending times of the observing session.  During the meteor shower, plot the paths of meteors onto the plate.  At the end of the observing session note the pattern on the plate, which should clearly illustrate the radiant.  Note that you may record sporadic meteors as well.

August 13, 2002
0320-0420 U.T.
Lexington, MI
August 13, 2002
0830-0850 U.T.
Lexington, MI
August 13, 2002
0910-0935 U.T.
Lexington, MI

Contributed by Chuck Bueter.

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Copyright 2012 Chuck Bueter.  All rights reserved.