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Bobcat’s Tail

Perseids meteor shower top 10 list

  • Not a meteor shower, but a view of the night sky as the earth spins for 50 minutes. Look for the Perseids meteor shower between Aug. 10 and 13.

    Not a meteor shower, but a view of the night sky as the earth spins for 50 minutes. Look for the Perseids meteor shower between Aug. 10 and 13.

  • eric aldrich

    eric aldrich

  • Not a meteor shower, but a view of the night sky as the earth spins for 50 minutes. Look for the Perseids meteor shower between Aug. 10 and 13.
  • eric aldrich

The Earth is slowly heading for a field of space debris, and that’s a good thing. Especially if you enjoy watching meteors.

Come Aug. 10 through 13, the Earth will pass through that debris and we’ll be treated to the annual Perseids meteor shower. If you hit it on a good night or morning, you could see as many as 50 meteors an hour, almost one per minute.

So, as you mark your calendar for this celestial show, keep in mind these top 10 cool things about the Perseids meteor shower:

No. 10: Constant comet — Every August, the Earth passes through the debris field left by comet Swift-Tuttle. The comet orbits the sun every 133 years or so and will make its next pass in July 2126. Mark your calendar now! It’s called Perseids because the meteors seem to come from the constellation Perseus.

No. 9: Lawnchair amusement — Watching the Perseids meteor shower is one of the few big nature events that you can — and should — do from the comfort of a lawn chair. Even better if you have a reclining lawn chair, so you can watch the skies.

No. 8: Make a party of it — Since the Perseids happens in August, when the living is easy, you can make an event out of it. As Stoddard sky-watcher Fred Ward suggests, “Have fun with it! Invite some friends over and enjoy the show.”

No. 7: No special equipment — This is one celestial event when you don’t need a big, fancy telescope or even a pair of binoculars. The unaided eye is best, just scanning the heavens and patiently waiting for meteors to shoot across the sky.

No. 6: Big show, small stuff — The celestial debris that creates the Perseids meteor shower is pretty small stuff, mostly like the size of a grain of sand; sometimes as big as a marble.

No. 5: Speed demons — When we see one of those meteors, it’s about 60 miles up, screaming into the Earth’s atmosphere at more than 133,000 mph. That’s pretty fast!

No. 4: Hot stuff — As that little particle enters the atmosphere, it compresses the air in front of it, heating up both the air and the meteor itself, more than 3,000 degrees F. That intense heat vaporizes most meteors, which is the “shooting star” that you see.

No. 3: Moon-free — This year’s show will benefit from the moon being small and disappearing early, making the night dark to enhance the meteor viewing. The moon will be a few days before its first quarter and will set below the horizon between 9:30 and 10:30 p.m. The darker the skies, the better the meteor viewing.

No. 2: The early show — If you’ve wanted a good reason to get up nice and early, this is it. How’s that for a positive spin? Best viewing of Perseids is an hour or more before dawn. So around here, that would be roughly between 4 and 5 a.m. I know, those hours present all sorts of questions about coffee, going back to bed, work and the day ahead. Make the best of it and enjoy the show!

No. 1: Long-running tradition — We know that the Chinese observed the Perseids from as early as 36 A.D., and other Eastern cultures observed the August meteor shower in the 8th , 9th and 10th centuries. Closer to home, my own family has often enjoyed the Perseids from the little dock of our camp in Maine, sometimes after a lobster dinner. What’s your tradition?

Eric Aldrich watches the sky from his home in Hancock.

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