Ce­les­tial fire­works treat for stargaz­ers

Weekend Witness - - News -

PARIS — Stargaz­ers will be treated to a spec­tac­u­lar fire­ball show early next 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 earl­y­set­ting 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 Tues­day, the head of U.S. 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 [on a 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.

— Sapa-AFP.

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