July 26, 2018: The Perseid Meteor Shower; Nature’s Fireworks (August 12-13).

July 26, 2018: The Perseid Meteor Shower;
Nature’s Fireworks (August 12-13).

By Mark Narwa.

Every year during the summer we are treated to a show of nature’s natural fireworks. On the night of August 12 into the morning of August 13th, feast your eyes upon the sky to enjoy the Perseid meteor shower. This year is a great year to view them because the shower occurs two days after the New Moon, which means they will not be “washed out” by moonlight.

No experience or optical aids are required to view a meteor shower. A dark sky with an unobstructed view is all that is needed for best viewing. A slightly light-polluted sky will still allow you to see the bright ones.

The Perseid meteor shower gets it name from the constellation Perseus which is located in the northeastern sky. All the meteors will appear to come from this one common point in the sky, called the radiant of the shower.

The best views occur at dawn on the 13th when the radiant is highest in the sky. Under a dark sky you can expect to see between 80 to 110 meteors per hour. Usually, the Perseid meteors tend to appear white or bluish white. They will be traveling at speeds of up to 200,000 km/h, producing many bright meteors that leave luminous trails visible for several seconds.

The Perseid meteor shower is associated with the comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, which was discovered by American astronomers Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle in July 1862 .

Each year when the Earth crosses Swift-Tuttle’s orbit, tiny particles of dust and rock left behind by the comet enter the Earth’s atmosphere, creating the streaks of light that cause the Perseid meteor shower. When these particles of dust and rock are floating in space they are called meteoroids, but when they burn up in the atmosphere they become meteors. If they should survive the burn up and land on the Earth’s surface they are called meteorites.

The best way to watch the meteor shower is to lie back using a sleeping bag or a reclining lawn chair and watch the open sky. It does not matter which direction you face because the meteors will streak across the entire sky. Dressing appropriately and having an extra blanket is a good idea because it tends to get chilly, especially when you are staying idle and the dew falls. It is also good to have some insect repellent.

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