August 1, 2010
Right now, the Earth is passing through fragments and dust trails created by the Comet Swift-Tuttle and this means the Perseids Meteor Shower has begun and will be getting stronger each day and it will peak from August 11-14. Lewis Swift and Horace Parnell-Tuttle discovered the Swift-Tuttle Comet in July of 1862. The comet passed by Earth in 1992 and will not return again until 2126, however the dust left behind by this comet creates a dependable annual meteor shower, the Perseids. The Perseids is named after constellation Perseus because meteors seem to spread out from an area surrounding the constellation, this is called the radiant.
The Perseids Meteor Shower will peak in the morning of August 12, meteors can be seen anywhere in the sky. The main thing to viewing any meteor shower is to find a safe, dark place away from man-made lights and lean back in a relaxing position looking toward the darkest part of the sky. Sometimes the Moon can be a hindrance, but this year the Moon will not be shedding much light, as during the peak it will be a waxing crescent Moon phase, so this means more visible meteors.
It is predicted that The Perseids Meteor Shower is going to have some great activity this year, up to 100 meteors per hour! It promises to be the best meteor shower this year. The meteors (shooting stars) are produced when debris left behind by a comet ranging from, as big as grains of sand to the size of a pebble, enter the Earth’s atmosphere with speeds reaching, 70 kilometres per second, and burn high up in the atmosphere due to friction and vaporise which causes them to glow brightly. A lot of junk hits our atmosphere so a good way to find out if you’re looking at a sporadic meteor or one from Perseids is to find where it originates from, if its moving away from the radiant it probably belongs to Perseids, if it’s going towards the radiant it’s a sporadic one, it’s always a good idea NOT to look directly at the radiant, as most meteors are going away from it. If you’re unlucky and have cloudy skies, don’t’ worry, you can hear the meteors! Just take an old radio out and tune it to the lowest frequency and you can hear the meteor echoes which sound like this. You can find more about meteor echoes here.
Meteor showers are one of the most spectacular astronomical events and it’s really easy to catch them, all you have to do is go out and look up, you don’t need anything but a dark clear patch of sky! And like most outdoor activities it’s best when you share the experience with your friends and family, the more eyes you have on the sky the more chances you have of catching the meteors streak across. I have a deep connection with meteor showers, when I saw my first one, it mesmerised me and inspired me to learn more about the sky above!
The Perseids Meteor Shower promises to be one of the best meteor showers of the year with lots of meteors streaking across the sky, you should definitely go out and see it!