Aug 11, 2023
Thought Question: If you saw a shooting star, how would it make you feel? Can you think of a time when you felt amazed or excited about something?
If you happen to be awake in the late night or early morning of August 12-13, check the sky. There’s a good chance you’ll see astronomy’s “Fireball Champion.”
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) uses the fiery nickname to describe the Perseid meteor shower. The Perseids have been streaking the night sky since July 14. They continue through September 1. They’ll be at their strongest and most visible this weekend. Onlookers may get to see up to 100 shooting stars per hour.
"This year's Perseid meteor shower (will be) an extraordinary viewing experience. Compared to last year when the moon was full, this year is going to be great," Bill Cooke told Business Insider. He's head of NASA’s Meteor Environment Office.
Each white-hot line drawn in the darkness is caused by meteors. They are tiny fragments of debris that burn up when they hit Earth’s atmosphere. They come from Comet 109/P Swift-Tuttle. It sheds rocks and dust as it orbits the sun. Compared to other comets, Swift-Tuttle is huge. It measures 16 miles across. That’s what makes the Perseids so brilliant, Cooke explains.
"Most other comets are much smaller, with nuclei only a few kilometers across,” he said. “As a result, Comet Swift-Tuttle produces a large number of meteoroids, many of which are large enough to produce fireballs."
To best catch the fleeting fireball show, experts recommend a rural view. That means getting as far from the light pollution of a major city as you can. Bring binoculars if you want, but you might not need them — the Perseids are just that strong.
Photo from Unsplash courtesy of Michał Mancewicz.
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