Midnight best time to see fire in sky
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.