Friday, August 6, 2010

Perseids Meteor Shower Approaching

On my way to work this morning, which is well before sunrise, I was stopped at a red light and could swear I saw a "shooting star" rapidly cross the clear sky over Richmond. I hadn't finished drinking my first cup of coffee, though, so maybe it was not really there, but it sure did look like a meteor scraping our Earth's atmosphere as it burns on entry. What I saw, and what many of you could start noticing overnight through the next week, is the Perseids meteor shower. Earth entered the path of Comet-Swift Tuttle's debris this week, leading to some of the first meteor spottings from this shower, including mine this morning. You can watch a video of one caught on tape a few days ago here (posted on from a NASA camera at Alabama's Marshall Space Flight Center. The shower peaks on August 12th and 13th, that's next Thursday night into Friday morning, between 10 PM and dawn. Viewing of the Perseids (the meteors are named this because they appear to originate from the constellation Perseus) should be pretty good this year because the thin, crescent Moon will set around Midnight and not add a glare to the otherwise stunning meteor display. You can expect to see anywhere from a couple dozen to 60 meteors per hour (that's potentially one a minute!) during the peak. For the most meteors, look northeast in the hours just before dawn:

(View looking Northeast around Midnight August 12-13. Image: NASA)
These meteors book it across the sky (140,000 mph), typically, so keep those eyes peeled for bright, quick streaks of light. If you blink, you might miss one!

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