Look way up! The Perseid Meteor Shower returns to a sky near you this summer and the show will peak between August 11- August 13. Due to environmental factors, it’s predicted to be an especially awesome show!
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This year scientists are predicting an “outburst’. An outburst is a meteor shower containing notably more meteors than usual. The last Perseid ‘outburst’ happened in the year 2009. These meteors are called Perseids because they appear to source from the constellation Perseus. But in reality each Perseid meteor is a tiny piece of the comet Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the sun every 133 years.
In other years, Earth might graze the outskirts of Swift-Tuttle’s debris stream, where there’s less material. But every once and a while Jupiter’s gravity pulls the massive area of dust trails closer, and Earth plows through nearer the centre where the material is more dense. Hence, an ‘outburst’.
This time around, however, astronomers and forecasters are expecting a Perseid outburst for the record books! They’re expecting “double normal rates on the night of Aug. 11-12”, said Bill Cooke with NASA’s Meteoroid Environments Office in Huntsville, Alabama. “Under perfect conditions, rates could soar to 200 meteors per hour.”
This year an outburst of over 200 meteors is predicted. “The predictions are very good, but it’s not a guarantee,” said Bob Bonadurer, director of the Daniel M. Soref Planetarium at the Milwaukee Public Museum. “… We’re talking about tiny grains of dust. It’s amazing they can predict it. Bonadurer goes on to say that the best viewing conditions are in rural areas where it’s darker.
The best location to view the Perseid Meteor shower is in the Northern Hemisphere and down to the mid-southern latitudes. According to EarthSky news the factors that improve your viewing are if the moon is down and the radiant point is high when the shower occurs. They suggest not to wait for those particular peak nights of August 11- 13 but to keep your eye on the sky on the nights leading up to the shower, “even as early as early August.”
Perseid Meteor Facts:
The Perseids meteors, in particular, build gradually to a peak beginning in early August.
Perseid meteors tend to strengthen in number as the night deepens and typically produce the most meteors in the wee hours before dawn.
As with all meteor shower radiant points, the Perseid meteors appear in all parts of the sky.
Perseids are typically fast and bright meteors.
Perseids frequently leave persistent trains.
Predicted peak morning in 2016: night of August 11-12.
For best results in the Northern Hemisphere, watch after moonset and before dawn on the mornings of August 11 and 13. Watch all night on August 11-12 (evening of August 11, morning of August 12).
Go someplace dark and watch meteors!
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