If you've stepped outside on a clear night recently, you may have seen a shooting star or two. Thatâ??s just the beginning of one of our favorite nighttime spectacles, the Perseid meteor shower. It happens every year at this time, and it's one of the most reliable and longest lasting meteor showers of the year. Sadly, itâ??s like the grand finale to our summer.
Although the meteor shower will peak on the night of Sunday, August 11, the event actually began back in mid July. If you step out on a clear night any time between now and the end of August, you might see a meteor! You might try setting an alarm for around 2 a.m., and don't just look out your window. Thatâ??s according to Rachel Pomeroy, Director of the Shiras Planetarium, in Marquette.
She shared some good advice for any would-be stargazers. "I recommend escaping the city lights to the greatest extent possible. Or at least turning down any unnecessary lights so that you get to the darkest, clearest sky you can find. And keeping your eyes all around; don't just keep your eyes in one direction. Try to get the best view of the most sky you can."
Sometimes the full moon can tend to wash out many of the meteors. But this year, our new moon was on August 6. That means that over the next couple of nights, we'll only see a sliver of the waxing crescent moon. During those peak hours on Sunday night, the moon will be below the horizon. So weather permitting, we should have a clear view of the night sky, which means we'll see about 50-60 meteors an hour. That's about one shooting star every minute!
However, theyâ??re not really shooting stars. They're technically pieces of a comet. Rocks and dust from the Swift-Tuttle comet's tail are travelling at about 132K miles an hour. At that speed, they quickly get burned up in Earth's atmosphere through friction in a flash of bright light.
But don't let all that science ruin your night out!For more information on the Perseid meteor shower, the constellation Perseus and more, follow this link!