Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Perseid meteor shower is coming up

As it does every year from July to August, with peak activity around August the 12-13th.

When I went and watched the shower last year with my girlfriend,  we saw our first "real" meteor burn up in the atmosphere.
So if possible, try and watch the skies on the night between August 12 and 13.
Unfortunately this year we won't be as lucky as last year where we had a new Moon at the time of the shower. This year there will be a full Moon on that exact day, so the meteor shower will be difficult to watch.
So remember to look at the section of sky that is opposite of the Moon.

But that shouldn't stop you from trying, I know I'll try to see some anyway :-)

The radiant of the Perseids (where the meteors will all appear to originate) is located just below the famous 'W'-shape of Cassiopeia.

 The meteors will appear to come from the marked location (radiant)
Image is  from (and is from last years shower)

General Information
I wrote about the Perseid shower last year and I'll just repost my general information about it below with minor rewrites (it is still quite relevant as the meteor showers don't change much from year to year):

The meteor shower is caused by the Earth passing through a belt of dust and debris left by the comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle as it makes its way around the Sun every 135 years or so. The tail you always see in images of comets is dust and gas which is being blown off the comet as the Sun heats it up as it comes closer. The dust then orbits the sun in a wide belt, which the Earth passes through every year in August.

The meteors mostly consists of tiny (less than 1 gram) particles which enter the Earth's atmosphere at 200000 km/h and burn up far above the surface (most burn up 80 km above the surface). So don't worry about getting hit by giant boulders ;-) We can expect as much as 100 meteors per hour Due to the full moon this year we can expect as little as 10 visible meteors per hour.