It's showtime for Perseid meteors

2015-08-12 18:39

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Paris - Dark skies due to a nearly invisible moon will make this year's Perseid meteor shower - peaking Wednesday and Thursday - an especially star-studded event, astronomers say.

So grab a folding chair, prepare a list of wishes, and get as far from bright city lights and clouds as you can to watch the natural firework display.

You do not even need a telescope or special, geeky glasses.

At its peak, up to 100 shooting stars per hour will streak across the sky - more than one a minute.

Viewing is expected to be even easier this year because the moon's glow won't interfere with meteor-watching, as it will be approaching its darkest or "new" phase, experts say.

The light show will be visible around the globe, but especially bright in northern latitudes above the United States, Europe and East Asia.

What we often call "falling stars" are actually tiny bits of space rock that smash into the atmosphere at about 60km/second, burning up in flashes of light.

Occasionally, longer and brighter streaks are seen, from pea- or marble-sized comet remnants.

The flaming nuggets visible over the next couple of days are from the tail of the Swift-Tuttle comet, which swings around the solar system every 130 years or so.

"All comets probably have a bad case of dandruff," said Carolin Crawford, the public astronomer at the University of Cambridge's Institute of Astronomy.

"But this one is one where the Earth's orbit takes it smack through the centre of the trail of debris that it leaves behind."

The angle

Swift-Tuttle last crossed paths with Earth's orbit in 1992.

The visual intensity of the meteor shower is caused not only by the number of space pebbles streaking into the atmosphere but also by the angle at which we approach them.

"It's like driving through a snow storm," said Jackie Faherty, an astronomer at the American Museum of Natural History.

"A meteor shower is a collision between the Earth" - whipping through Space - "and this debris tail," she explained.

"We are not hitting one little spot, but turning through it. As in a snow storm, when you are in the front of a car it looks way worse than when you are at the back."

Amateur interest around the globe is high, but astronomy shops in London were not exactly buzzing with talk of the meteor shower Wednesday.

"It's not something we spend a great amount of time chatting to people about," said someone from The Widescreen Centre, an astronomy supplies store.

"Meteor showers are best seen with the unaided eye and we can't sell people equipment to do that."

The showers are named after the constellation of Perseus, the hero from Greek mythology who beheaded the snake-headed Medusa to save the princess Andromeda.

"It's going to be a spectacular show this year," astronomer Morgan Hollis of the Royal Astronomical Society told AFP previously. "You'll be able to a see a lot more than normal."

Read more on:    space  |  astronomy

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.