A show in the sky

Hun­dreds of meteors are expected to light up the sky this week­end

The Covington News - - Front page - NHI HO nho@cov­news.com

The Per­seid me­teor shower is an­tic­i­pated to be at its peak this week­end next with a pre­dicted 60-100 brightly, col­or­ful meteors shoot­ing through the sky per hour,

The Per­seid me­teor shower is an­tic­i­pated to be at its peak in the next few nights with a pre­dicted 60- 100 brightly, col­or­ful meteors shoot­ing through the sky per hour.

The an­nual me­teor shower is ac­tive through the sum­mer month of July 23 through Aug. 22, but the peak and po­ten­tial to see the best dis­play of meteors are this week­end, on Aug. 11 and 12.

Jim Hon­ey­cutt, ad­junct lec­turer in as­tron­omy at Ox­ford Col­lege, ex­plains that me­teor show­ers are the re­sults of comets pass­ing through the Earth’s or­bit on their trip around the Sun.

As they get closer to the Sun, they start to melt, re­leas­ing gases, par­ti­cles and a few larger pieces of ma­te­rial. Ev­ery year, the Earth pass through the area where the left over comet ma­te­rial is lo­cated and we see a me­teor shower. This me­teor shower is the de­bris left over from comet Swift- Tut­tle.

“Weather per­mit­ting, the Per­seid me­teor shower will be vis­i­ble on the night of Aug. 11,” said Hon­ey­cutt. “The best time to ob­serve will be af­ter 11 a. m., when the con­stel­la­tion Perseus will be ris­ing in the north­east.

The meteors will seem to ra­di­ate out­ward from this area. The crescent moon will be ris­ing af­ter 1 a. m., but should not cause too much of a prob­lem. You don’t need binoc­u­lars or a tele­scope, these would limit you to a small area of view and also the meteors move fast. So find your­self a dark area, a chair fac­ing east­ward, lay back and watch the night sky.

The night of Aug. 11 is the best night, but a cou­ple of days be­fore or af­ter, you can see some of the shower.”

While the bright­ness of meteors make for a spec­tac­u­lar show and easy to see against the night sky, they are typ­i­cally not much larger than a grain of sand in size.

How­ever, as they travel at great speeds, these tiny par­ti­cles put on an im­pres­sive show. There is no dan­ger to sky watch­ers as the frag­ile grains dis­in­te­grate long be­fore they reach the ground.

“Most of the meteors you see are very small and they en­ter the at­mos­phere at fast speeds burn­ing up as they fall,” said Hon­ey­cutt. “A very few of the meteors are a lit­tle larger, some may ex­plode and there is al­ways the chance one could make it to the ground. A me­teor that hits the ground is called a me­te­orite.”

To get the best view of the Per­seid me­teor shower, find an ob­ser­va­tion spot away from city lights and look ap­prox­i­mately half­way up the sky fac­ing north­east. Look­ing di­rectly up at the sky or into Perseus is not rec­om­mended be­cause that is where the start­ing point of the ra­di­ant orig­i­nates. You will have a bet­ter view of the shoot­ing stars by look­ing slightly away from the ori­gin to catch the trail of meteors.

Jim Hon­ey­cutt, Ad­junct Lec­turer in As­tron­omy at Ox­ford Col­lege of Emory Univer­sity, con­trib­uted to this story.

Im­ages cour­tesy of Google

To get the best views, look ap­prox­i­mately half­way up the sky fac­ing north­east.

Sky watch­ers can ex­pect to see up to 60-100 meteors per hour with clear skies.

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