Fireworks in the Sky – The Perseids meteor shower Aug 11-13 2017

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The Perseids meteor shower, more popularly called ‘the Perseids’, is one of the best meteor showers of the year. This year the third quarter moon will affect the viewing and let us watch only the brightest ones.

The Perseids are caused when the Earth passes annually through a stream of icy, rocky debris left behind by a comet known as 109P/Swift–Tuttle, which orbits the sun every 133 years. As the comet travelled through the inner solar system, its outer icy layers were blown off as gas by the Sun and created a stream of debris. When the Earth plows into these, they burn up in our atmosphere to form the shower.

Brightest Shower in recorded human history?

Rumours of August 12 shower being one of the biggest in history which are making the rounds on social media are actually false. In a blog post about this year’s Perseids, NASA’s Bill Cooke said that reports suggesting this week’s event will be the “brightest shower in recorded human history” are not true.

“This year, we are expecting enhanced rates of about 150 per hour or so, but the increased number will be cancelled out by the bright Moon, the light of which will wash out the fainter Perseids. A meteor every couple of minutes is good, and certainly worth going outside to look, but it is hardly the ‘brightest shower in human history.’”

When Can I See the Perseids?
The Perseid meteor shower, one of the brightest meteor showers of the year, occur every year between July 17 and August 24. This year, the shower will peak on the nights of August 11/12 and 12/13. The best time to view the Perseids, or most other meteor showers is when the sky is the darkest. Most astronomers suggest that depending on the Moon’s phase, the best time to view meteor showers is right before dawn. This year the third quarter moon will be bright enough to affect the viewing.

Where can I see the Perseids?
The Perseids can be seen in the Northern Hemisphere. Look between the radiant towards the North East, which will be in the constellation Perseus (hence the name)

Alternatively, a live broadcast of the shower will be shown via the Slooh website on August 12 from 8 p.m. Eastern time. Astronomers will discuss the Perseids and answer questions about the meteor shower over the course of the evening.

How to Watch Meteor Showers
Check the weather: Meteors, or shooting stars, are easy to spot, all you need is clear skies and a pair of eyes. Get out of town: if possible, find a place as far away as possible from artificial lights. Prepare to wait, bring something to sit or lie down on and get comfortable. Scan the skies with your eyes, binoculars or telescopes are not of much value in this case as they will streak by you.

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By: Mukul Kumar Yadav
Educator|SPACE

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