Another Reason To Look Up – The Perseid Meteor Shower
This week the Perseid meteor shower peaks and, fingers crossed, conditions will be ideal for viewing. The morning of the 13th should provide the best viewing. The Perseids are probably the best known of all meteor showers. They occur in warm, comfortable August, people are more likely to be off from work and/or on vacation so getting up early or staying up late is easier. They have the potential to put on quite a show.
This year, there will be no moon to spoil the darkness of the night sky. So, as long as the weather holds and we get clear skies, we should see a nice display of “shooting stars.”
They are called the Perseid meteor shower because they seem to originate in a constellation called Perseus. Perseus is not the most well known constellation in the sky, but it is right below one that’s easy to find – Cassiopeia – It’s the “W” in the sky and it’s opposite the Big Dipper.
You are going to want to get yourself to a dark location, away from city lights. The darker your sky, the more meteors you will see. Here’s all the equipment you will need: Lawn chair or blanket Bug repellent Yeah, that’s it. No binoculars, no fancy telescope, no sky charts. Just your eyes, darkness, and probably an alarm clock. Sit back in your chair and look up at the sky. Be patient, it takes 10 to 20 minutes for your eyes to fully adjust to the darkness.
What you’ll actually be seeing are tiny particles from the comet Swift-Tuttle that last visited the inner part of the solar system in 1992 and won’t be back until 2126. Earth is passing through the debris left in it’s wake and those tiny particles are streaking into the atmosphere at over 100,000mph.
You’ll probably want to get up early to see the best part of the show…sometime between 2am and dawn. At it’s peak, you can expect to see about 50 meteors an hour – about one a minute – but they’re not that regular. You might see three in a span of a minute, then nothing for five minutes. There’s no pattern, no rhyme or reason.
Just look up…and enjoy.
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Tags: astronomy, meteor, meteor shower, perseid, perseids, Science