Moon to spoil me­teor show

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

PARIS — A bright moon will out­shine the an­nual Per­seids me­teor shower, which will peak Satur­day with only one-fifth the usual num­ber of shoot­ing stars vis­i­ble from Earth, as­tronomers said.

The light from the wax­ing gib­bous moon will spoil stargaz­ers’ view in a sim­i­lar way to that of ur­ban light pol­lu­tion.

“To be hon­est, it’s not a good year” for the Per­seids, said Robert Massey, act­ing ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Royal As­tro­nom­i­cal So­ci­ety in Lon­don.

“You might, if you’re lucky, see maybe 20 an hour,” he said.

The Per­seids hap­pen when Earth hits a belt of de­bris left be­hind by the comet Swift-Tut­tle on its elon­gated, 133-year or­bit around the Sun.

Each shoot­ing star is a piece of comet dust, burn­ing up from fric­tion as it hits Earth’s at­mos­phere.

Nor­mally, North­ern Hemi­sphere view­ers are treated to a spectacle of about 100 to 120 vis­i­ble shoot­ing stars per hour when the phe­nom­e­non peaks around mid-Au­gust — depend­ing on the moon and the weather.

Last year, there was an un­usual “out­burst” with more than dou­ble the usual fire­ball ac­tiv­ity as Earth passed through es­pe­cially dense “rib­bons” of de­bris within the comet’s dust belt.

“This year, we are ex­pect­ing en­hanced rates of about 150 (me­te­ors) per hour or so, but the in­creased num­ber will be can­celed out by the bright moon, the light of which will wash out the fainter Per­seids,” said a NASA blog.

The moon was full on Mon­day, and will have waned to ap­prox­i­mately 80 per­cent il­lu­mi­na­tion by Satur­day.

Not all is lost

“This is not much bet­ter than a full moon and will cer­tainly pose a chal­lenge in view­ing the Per­seids this year,” said the In­ter­na­tional Me­teor Or­ga­ni­za­tion.

This means it would make lit­tle dif­fer­ence if you sought out a ru­ral area with lit­tle ar­ti­fi­cial light pol­lu­tion — con­di­tions usu­ally rec­om­mended for me­teor watching.

The ex­perts ad­vised try­ing to catch a glimpse be­fore the moon rises around 11 pm on Fri­day.

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