The sky is falling
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.