The Perseid meteor shower is on its way – but there’s a big problem


Often bringing one of the most vivid annual meteor showers visible in Earth’s night sky, the Perseids will peak on August 12-13. Usually they deliver 50 to 100 “shooting stars” per hour at their peak, providing an impressive sight.

Perseid meteor shower on the way, ‘Unfortunately, this year’s Perseid peak will see the worst possible circumstances for observers,’ NASA astronomer says Bill Cook, who directs the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “Most of us in North America would normally see 50 or 60 meteors per hour,” he said, “but this year during the normal peak, the Full Moon will reduce that to 10-20 per hour at better.” Because the Moon is so much brighter than anything else in the night sky, it will wipe out all but the brightest Perseids as they pass through our atmosphere and burn above our heads. As the full moon subsides, the Perseids will begin to weaken around August 21-22 and cease completely on September 1. These are the remains of debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle, a heavy “snowball” of ice, rocks and dust that orbits our Sun every 133 years. The comet itself was last visible to us in 1992 and will not return on our path for more than 100 years: not until 2125.

How far back Perseid sightings actually go remains a matter of dispute, Cooke said. The comet itself was not identified until 1862, but the meteor shower was seen over medieval Europe. The annual event became known as the “Tears of St. Lawrence”, named after the last of the seven Roman church deacons martyred by Emperor Valerian in August of the year 258. Thus, although this probably isn’t the best year to take a special trip to see the Perseids, if you find yourself outside between midnight and dawn on August 13, remember to look up anyway. Because you never know – you might catch one of the bright Perseid meteors that defies the glare of the Moon. Also be aware that the occasional early Perseid may cross the sky up to a week in advance.

Source: This news was originally published by scitechdaily


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