Perseid Meteor Shower

perseid-meteor-kingham-620

Perseid in 2012, Photo by David Kingham, Wyoming

If you are an early riser or like to stay up really late, this is your week.  Beginning Tuesday morning you may be able to see as many as 50 meteors shooting through the sky.  It’s the annual Perseid Meteor Shower, and this year will be good.  One of the key factors is a dark sky and the waning crescent moon doesn’t come up until sunrise, so there will not be any additional light diminishing the view.

Anthony_Misc

To see the show, you need to be as far away as possible from the city lights.  The Perseids will come into view beginning at midnight and last through 5 a.m. Tuesday through Friday, and you want to look northeast.  Tracing the paths of the meteors backward, you’ll find that they originate in front of the constellation Perseus.   If you have to pick a day, the best show should be Thursday morning before sunrise. That is the day of the new moon and the sky will be at its darkest.

perseid-map

It takes your eyes 20 minutes to adjust to the night sky, so be patient if you don’t see anything right away.  You should give yourself at least an hour to watch.  Every year at this time our planet crosses the orbital path of the comet Swift-Tuttle.  The debris from this comet slams into our atmosphere at 130,000 mph and burns up creating tails of ionized gas.  What most people don’t know is these meteors are about the size of Grape Nuts cereal, and they are about the same color and texture too (see photo below).  It’s incredible to think that a meteor this bright comes from something this small.  None of these reach Earth’s surface, but sometimes a broken off piece of an asteroid will hit the Earth.  When that happens it is called a meteorite.

Meteors

Advertisements

One Response

  1. cool!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: