Mid­night best time to see fire in sky

Benalla Ensign - - News - By John Lewis

From this week on­wards you might be see­ing stars — shoot­ing stars, that is.

Ev­ery­one’s favourite me­teor shower, the Per­seids, are mak­ing an ap­pear­ance and the out­come could be pretty spec­tac­u­lar.

Peo­ple are al­ready see­ing large fire­balls com­mon with this shower, and you could see them, too.

Me­teor show­ers hap­pen when you get lots of me­te­ors at one time.

They are cen­tred mainly over the north­ern hemi­sphere, but we should get a good sprin­kling here too.

David Reneke, who is one of Aus­tralia’s lead­ing as­tronomers, said it was a good shower for be­gin­ners, with es­ti­mates of a dozen or so me­te­ors an hour.

‘‘As with all show­ers, the best time for view­ing will be from around mid­night un­til an hour be­fore sun­rise,’’ he said.

Me­teor show­ers orig­i­nate from left­over frag­ments of comets and as­ter­oids.

Comets that travel through the sun leave dust be­hind.

When the Earth passes through that de­bris, those rem­nants clash with the at­mos­phere, dis­in­te­grate and gen­er­ate colour­ful, sparkling streaks we love to watch.

‘‘I bet you didn’t know space rocks could burn,’’ Mr Reneke said.

‘‘They of­ten ap­pear as green lights as they bar­rel to­wards Earth. The fric­tion sets them ablaze as we see them streak across the night sky and a fire­ball is born.’’

Me­te­ors look pretty when they fall, but there is money in those space rocks. Most con­tain ex­tremely valu­able met­als with grades many times higher than those found on Earth.

‘‘If you’re keen, you can help gather im­por­tant me­teor data sim- ply by switch­ing on your phones. It’s no gim­mick, it re­ally works and is tons of fun,’’ Mr Reneke said.

‘‘Fire­balls in the Sky is a new smart­phone app de­vel­oped by re­searchers for iOS and An­droid users, al­low­ing you to track the paths of me­te­ors and fire­balls as they fly over­head.’’

The app also keeps its users up- to-date with the lat­est im­ages, news and sight­ing an­nounce­ments.

Go to www.fire­ballsinthe sky.com.au Want some free stuff? Head to Mr Reneke’s web­site www.davi­dreneke.com and down­load a whole range of fact sheets and free e-books on as­tron­omy.

Me­teor shower: Shoot­ing stars are a com­mon oc­cur­rence in the night sky this week.

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