Persid meteor shower peaks this weekend.

Phil Plait over at the Bad Astronomy blog fills us in on the 12 things you need to watch the Perseid meteors Sunday night:

Sunday night August 12 is the peak of the annual and much beloved Perseid meteor shower. Meteor showers occur when the Earth gets to a point in its orbit crossed by the orbit of debris from a comet. Comets are basically big ol’ chunks of rock and gravel held together by ice. When the comet gets near the Sun, the ice melts, and debris gets loose. Over time it spreads out along the orbit of the comet. If that orbit crosses ours, then we plow into the debris, which burns up in our atmosphere. Voila! Meteors!

Since this happens when the Earth goes past the intersection of the two orbits, it happens around the same time every year. The Perseids peak when the Earth passes through the debris left over from the comet Swift-Tuttle. The chunks are relatively dense in the debris field, so we get a lot of meteors, typically 60 or so per hour, maybe more. Only a couple of showers do better (the Geminids in December are good, for example) and since the Perseids peak in mid-August, they are a favorite for northern hemisphere folks.

Even better, there is a new moon this year, so the bright moonlight won’t wash out faint meteors. You’ll see more if you go out and look!

No I’m not going to reproduce his list, you need some reason to go visit his excellent blog after all, but the list isn’t overly complicated. He also mentions that while the peak is spread out over the weekend so if you can’t stay up late Sunday then tonight and Saturday should also be pretty good nights to check it out.

5 thoughts on “Persid meteor shower peaks this weekend.

  1. Glad to see you linking to the BA!  Even if astronomy is not one of your main interests, Bad Astronomy is a great site for science, news of anti-science in politics, and skepticism/bad science debunking!

    It’s a pretty good day on the internet so far.  I just finished my weekly ritual of reading the Swift newsletter from the James Randi Educational Foundation, and then popped over here to SEB only to see a link to the BA about one of my favorite yearly events.  Sweet!  If gods4suckers.net or normalbobsmith.com put up something new today, I’ll have a hat trick going!

    I feel a bit sorry for people who have no interest at all in astronomy.  You don’t have to have a telescope or spend hours out in the cold enjoying the sights, but a healthy respect for the universe, a little awe at the vast unexplored cosmos does a person good, I think.  Certainly clears my mind, anyway.

    Related anecdote- I have a female co-worker who is very intelligent, fun, liberal, and quite attractive.  We have had many conversations on all kinds of topics(religion, politics, social policy, education, music) and usually end up seeing pretty close to eye-to-eye.  Last week we were talking about the deadly blast in Mojave, and the subject turned to space exploration and astronomy/cosmology.  Her reply was “I just couldn’t care less.  I just don’t care.”  She made a kind of grand gesture with one arm, seeming to refer to anything off-planet.  A little more conversation ensued, and as far as I could figure out, she seems to be one of those liberals who feels(I can’t bring myself to say “thinks”) that space exploration is irrelevant, and that it’s a shame to waste that time and money while so many problems still plague us on earth.  As if the NASA budget could even fix our highways!  I tried to ask why she was so distinctly uninterested, but got only a curt and casual dismissal of some of the most important science of our lifetimes.  She didn’t go so far as to say we should stop entirely, or that it was silly for me to be interested, but there seemed to be more than lack of interest on her part.  She did go so far as to say that if a killer asteroid were going to hit us, she wouldn’t even want to know!  I know some christians who don’t want to learn about biology, but few of them regard it as totally superfluous!  I have never understood this attitude(which some liberals and many christian cultists share, oddly enough)that as long as we’re not living in paradise(whether man-made or god-given) that there’s no use in exploration or research for it’s own sake.  What a load!  As if human selflessness is going to do the trick all by itself!  Anyway, the point of the story: she seems much less attractive to me now.  If your head is buried in the sand, it really doesn’t matter how nice your ass looks!

    Please excuse the long post, and don’t forget to watch for a few meteors this weekend-It’s free mind expansion, nature’s own l.s.d. light show with visual tracers and everything, but no come-down or hangover!

  2. Neil, no problem on the long post. I always feel folks should take as much time as they need so long as they have something to say.

    And of course I linked to BA. I’ve had him in my RSS aggregator for ages. I keep meaning to get him in my blogroll, but I’ve been lazy. The Persid meteor shower is one of my favorite yearly events and Phil does such a great job in telling us about it that I had to link to it.

  3. Okay, it’s been over four hours, and I can see that Les and myself are the only astronomy nerds, I mean ,uh, enthusiasts, here right now.

    Y’all suck!  I’m takin’ my toys over to BA’s to play!

    Or maybe I’ve misread the situation, and I’m the only one nerdy enough to still think that meteor showers are cool!  I suppose everyone else is still busy collecting data for SETI!

  4. I wouldn’t take the lack of responses as a lack of interest. I’ve learned in my five years of blogging that you can’t judge interest by the number of comments. There are some topics, such as this one, that a lot of people will read but have nothing to add to the conversation.

    I tend to get a fair amount of email about them though so I know folks are paying attention.

  5. Hey!!  Took my boys out to see the show this morning,  they were up before I was, it was worth every moment!!!

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