The 2018 Perseid Meteor Shower

By  | August 8, 2018 | Filed under: News

Meteor showers occur when the Earth, traveling on its annual orbit around the Sun, passes into the dust left behind by a comet.   Comets are small icy objects that originate beyond the orbit of Neptune.  When they get close to the Sun, the gas and dust they are made of gets heated and their weak gravity cannot hold onto the material.  The result is a trail of dust particles left behind in the orbit of the comet.  The Earth can pass into this dust and the tiny particles hit the Earth’s atmosphere at high speed and burn up causing a flash of a meteor.   On any given night three or four meteors an hour hit the atmosphere per hour.  During a meteor shower dozens and sometimes hundreds of meteors per hour can be seen under ideal conditions.

 

On the nights of August 10 to 14th, the Earth will pass into the orbit of the comet Temple-Tuttle and we will see the annual Perseid meteor shower reach its peak.   This year experts are predicting a maximum 150 to 200 meteors per hour, with most observers seeing 60 – 70 meteors.  The Moon will be near new moon, so it should not affect observing the meteor shower, making this a good year to watch the Perseids.  The shower is named for the constellation Perseus from which the meteors appear to originate.  The constellation will be in the northeast direction, but don’t stare towards it, but instead look in all directions since the meteors can hit the atmosphere anywhere in the sky.  The shower will peak on the evening of August 12th and the morning of August 13th, but the night before and after should still show meteors from the shower.  The period after midnight is best.   For comfort, a deck chair and a blanket will help, and be sure to bring bug spray and a blanket to stay warm.  For safety, go in a group and share the event with your friends. If the weather is poor, remember that the shower lasts several days before and after the peak, so you can go out a night or two before or after the peak and still see the shower.

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