Coming To A Sky Near You - The Spectacular Perseid Meteor Showers
Though there is a slew of meteor showers that are visible from Earth every year, none comes even close to the show put on by the Perseids annually around mid-August. They are so spectacular that the experts at NASA call them the 'fireball' champion of all annual meteor showers! The best part is that this year's event is coming up soon.
Called Perseids because they seem to spurt from the constellation Perseus, the meteors have already been streaming through our skies at the rate of about a dozen an hour, for the last few weeks. However from Saturday, August 10th to Monday, August 12th, they will accelerate to between 90 to 100 an hour, making it relatively easy to spot with just the naked eye.
The meteors, which hit the Earth's atmosphere at speeds of 140,000 mph are debris left behind by the comet, Swift-Tuttle as it traveled through the area on its 132-135-year orbit. We encounter them ever year when the earth passes through the cloud of dust along its orbit around the sun. And while they can be seen from most parts of the world, they are most visible from the Northern Hemisphere because of the path of the Swift-Tuttle's orbit.
What distinguishes the Perseids from the 64 other meteor showers that are visible from Earth each year, is their reliability and the number of fireballs - meteors as bright or even brighter than Jupiter and Venus - that it sends hurtling towards earth. NASA scientists believe that this is thanks to the comet's large (26 km diameter) nucleus that produces numerous meteoroids, many of which are large enough to produce fireballs.
The only unfortunate part for people living in North America is that this year's peak activity is predicted to be largely during daylight hours, which is why scientists are recommending stargazers watch the extraordinary show after midnight, once the waxing crescent moon, (the phase following a new moon) has set.
So be sure to set your alarm clocks a little early this weekend or better still, make plans to stay up really late and watch the show. Also, don't forget to count all the shooting stars you see and make a wish or two - They are bound to come true!