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"In this our life, exempt from public haunt, find tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones and good in everything." Shakespeare, As You Like It

Perseid Meteor Shower Lights Up August Night Sky

Had Shakespeare lived in our modern world - seeing streetlights as ubiquitous as the stars once were in his day - he might have added, "and solace in the shooting stars." In this day and age of too much artificial lighting, yet too little good judgement on how to use it, very few people have seen a starry sky with truly dark-adapted eyes.
Perseid meteorIf you're on vacation, why not reserve the nights of Wednesday, August 11, and Thursday, August 12, for a date with the Perseid meteor shower? Or if you're working, give Friday, August 13 a try. From the comfort of a reclining lawn chair and a sleeping bag, but far away from pesky artificial lights, your unspoiled view of the heavens may count as the experience of a lifetime. (Photo courtesy of aresauburn.)
Though sporadic meteors (or shooting stars) adorn the sky on any given night of the year, meteor showers are annual events, occuring at certain times of the year. When the Earth's orbit collides with the orbit of a comet, the stream of cometary debris burning up in the Earth's atmosphere results in a meteor shower. Many meteor showers - including the Perseids - tend to intensify after midnight and put out the highest number of meteors in the wee hours before dawn.
Forecasting the peak (or peaks) and intensity of any meteor shower, even one as dependable as the Perseids, is a tricky business - so regard any prediction as a best guess, not a guarantee. However, it's quite likely that you'll see 50 or more meteors per hour. The Perseids are known for their relatively high number of trains, or meteor trails that linger for a moment or two.
If we hit an unusally dense clumb comet rubble at just the right time, we'll see elevated levels of meteors - possibly even a meteor storm. Like a fishing expedition or sporting event, you never really know the outcome until all is said and done.
That having been said, the night of August 12-13 is expected to be the Perseids' peak night, though the night of August 11-12 may be just as good. Find a dark, open sky and enjoy the spectacle!

copyright 2002 and 2010 by Bruce McClure

Velocity of the Perseid Meteors

July 2010 Feature * Sept 2010 Feature