This weekend is the peak of the annual Perseid Meteor Shower. Around the 11th or August each year the Earth, in it’s orbit around the sun, intersects the path of Comet Swift-Tuttle. The comet, while going through the solar system, left a debris trail of small particles of dust and dirt grains, and these specks – when hitting the atmosphere – glow as they burn up, giving us “shooting stars”, or meteors.
The actual peak of the shower is Sunday night/Monday morning, but it is a wide peak, and some meteors have already been seen.
We will be featuring the meteor shower at our public night at the Veen Observatory tomorrow night, and visitors should be able to see quite a few during the evening.
One of the really fun things to see are “earthgrazers.” These meteors hit the atmosphere and travel across the sky slowly with bright colors for a long time. The meteor is actually skipping off the earth’s atmosphere and going back out into space (or burning up).
For more information about the meteor shower, please check out Science@NASA’s Great Perseids article. For detailed information about going out to observe the meteors during their peak overnight Sunday, please read 12 things you need to watch the Perseid meteors Sunday night at astronomer (and author) Phil Plait’s “Bad Astronomy” website.
And if you can, please join us out at the Veen Observatory tomorrow night for clear skies, some great views through the telescopes, and the Perseid Meteors.