The sky is fall­ing

The Covington News - - EDUCATION -

The sky is fall­ing Be­fore I talk about fall­ing sky, I need to tell you that there will be a lu­nar eclipse on the morn­ing of Aug. 25. The par­tial phases of the eclipse will be­gin at 4:15 a.m. EDT and the to­tal part of the eclipse be­gins at 5:52 a.m. The only prob­lems are that the moon will set dur­ing the to­tal phase and the sky will be get­ting lighter as the sun rises in the east. If you can get up that early, it still might be a neat sight for a while.

On Au­gust 12-13 the Per­seid me­teor shower will reach its peak. The shower will be at its best start­ing af­ter mid­night be­tween the two days; then our part of the Earth will be headed to­ward the me­te­ors.

You don’t need binoc­u­lars or a tele­scope to see the me­te­ors. Just get a lawn chair and sit fac­ing the north­east. The me­te­ors will ap­pear to flash into view over a very large area, but they will all seem to ra­di­ate from the con­stel­la­tion Perseus, which rises a lit­tle be­fore mid­night. Es­ti­mates of 60 me­te­ors per hour have been made for very dark ar­eas where light pol­lu­tion is very low. If it not cloudy, sky con­di­tions will be bet­ter this year be­cause the moon is not vis­i­ble. Even if you don’t see a huge num­ber, there will be some bright ones that usu­ally stand out. You need to go to a dark place so you can see the most me­te­ors.

A me­teor shower is caused by comets, which are made of ice, dust and rock par­ti­cles. As a comet gets near the sun, some of it melts, form­ing a tail of gases and dust par­ti­cles. The comet leaves a trail of par­ti­cles be­hind it as it or­bits the sun. If the Earth crosses the or­bit of the par­ti­cles, some will fall to­ward the Earth due to the force of grav­ity. Most par­ti­cles are as small as a grain of sand, but they fall at such high ve­loc­i­ties that they heat up in a flash and burn up in the at­mos­phere. Some larger me­te­ors can pro­duce a fire­ball with a smok­ing tail. Par­ti­cles that are seen fall­ing through the air are re­ferred to as me­te­ors and thos that hit the ground are called me­te­orites.

My best me­teor shower ob­ser­va­tion was in 2001. My wife Bar­bara and I took our chairs out into a field next to our house, and be­tween the hours of 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. we saw 413 me­te­ors. We saw one me­teor that was very bright, leav­ing a trail that was vis­i­ble for about 30 sec­onds.

So if it’s not cloudy, this could be a good me­teor shower. Re­mem­ber don’t use any kind of scope be­cause the me­te­ors move too fast. You only need your eyes.

Un­til next time, clear and dark skies.

Jim Hon­ey­cut

Colum­nist

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