Perseid meteoroids to produce fireballs

2013-08-11 21:03
A meteor shower has dazzled California. (AFP)

A meteor shower has dazzled California. (AFP)

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

Paris - Stargazers will be treated to a spectacular fireball show early this week when Earth hits a belt of comet debris known as the Perseids, astronomers say.

The annual Perseid meteor shower, dubbed "the tears of St Lawrence" in honour of a martyred Christian saint, should peak in the wee hours of Monday and Tuesday with between 60 and 100 shooting stars per hour.

They will be visible over most of the world, but most clearly in the northern hemisphere, aided by an early-setting crescent Moon leaving a dark canvas for the celestial fireworks.

Cloudless skies permitting, the best viewing time will be the hours just before dawn on Monday and on Tuesday, the head of US space agency Nasa's meteoroid office, Bill Cooke, told AFP.

"Go outside, allow about 30-45 minutes for your eyes to dark adapt. Lie flat on your back [sleeping bag or lawn chair] and look straight up: take in as much of the sky as you can," he said by e-mail.

"My experience is that most people who are disappointed viewing meteors go out for only a few minutes expecting to see something: this will work only for major outbursts not normal meteor showers."

"So be prepared to spend at least a couple of hours outside; don't expect to see many before midnight."

According to the European Space Agency, the Perseids are sand- to pea-sized bits of rocky debris ejected by the comet Swift-Tuttle, which is slowly disintegrating on its orbit around the Sun.

Over the centuries, its remains have spread along the comet's orbit to form a stream of particles hundreds of millions of kilometres long.

Earth's path around the Sun crosses the stream every mid-August.

The particles, called meteoroids, hit our planet's atmosphere at about 60 kilometres per second - each igniting in a white-hot streak of superheated air.

According to Cooke, the Perseid showers produce more fireballs than any other.

They are named after the star constellation of Perseus from which they appear to spread out, and have been seen for about 2 000 years - the earliest observations recorded in China.

St Lawrence was an early Christian deacon tortured to death by the Romans in AD 258. His saint's day of 10 August coincides with the Perseids build-up.

According to legend, Laurentius was martyred on an iron grill over a fire, during which ordeal he is said to have quipped to his persecutors: "Turn me over. I'm done on this side!"

He is the patron saint of cooks.

Read more on:    nasa  |  space

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.

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
6 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

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.