'Spectacular' meteor showers to light up the sky

August 8, 2015
Perseid meteors streak across the sky on August 12, 2013 in Cathedral Gorge State Park, Nevada
Perseid meteors streak across the sky on August 12, 2013 in Cathedral Gorge State Park, Nevada

The Perseid meteor shower—an annual display of natural fireworks—should be particularly spectacular this year, with extra-dark skies expected to create optimal stargazing conditions, astronomers said Friday.

When the celestial show hits its peak overnight Wednesday next week, up to 100 shooting stars per hour will streak across the sky for a spectacle visible around the globe.

In a lucky development, the Moon's glow will not interfere with meteor-watching, as it will be approaching its darkest or "new" phase, experts say.

"It's going to be a spectacular show this year," astronomer Morgan Hollis of the Royal Astronomical Society told AFP. "You'll be able to a see a lot more than normal."

The mid-July to mid-August light show comes from the tail of comet Swift-Tuttle, which swings around the Solar System every 130 years or so, depositing debris in Earth's orbit as it nears the Sun.

As Earth races around the Sun, these grains smash into the atmosphere at about 60 kilometres (37 miles) per second, burning up in flashes of light.

Occasionally, longer and brighter streaks are seen, from pea- or marble-sized comet remnants.

The showers—named after the constellation of Perseus from which they appear to fly out—peak when Earth passes through the heart of the debris field.

The Perseids are also known as the "tears of St. Lawrence" in honour of a martyred Christian saint. He was an early deacon, Laurentius, tortured to death by the Romans in AD 258, and whose saint's day of August 10 coincides with the Perseids buildup.

Unlike some celestial events, one doesn't need special technology to watch the Perseids unfold. It is best to find a wide open space away from tall buildings or trees, and with as little artificial light as possible.

"The more of the sky you can see the better," said astronomer Affelia Wibisono from the Royal Observatory Greenwich. "You don't need any binoculars or telescopes. It's actually better if you use your eyes."

The only equipment she suggested was a nice comfy chair from which to watch the show, and some warm clothes.

Explore further: 'Tears of St. Lawrence' meteor shower to peak at weekend

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5 / 5 (4) Aug 08, 2015
Quite an amazing photo there. A sky teeming with visible meteors,... yet no visible stars whatsoever. That must have been something. Oddly, I've seen time lapse photographs of stars with no meteors that look remarkably similar. Imagine that.

My first really great meteor shower was the Perseids. My wife and I needed a break from traveling. It was very, very late. I pulled onto a small peninsula on a remote section of the Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Utah and set up a tent in the dark. It was unexpectedly cold. She went to bed. I decided to get really, really stoned and lay out on a sleeping bag by the water. I had no idea what event was occurring at the time, but the meteors were awesome and plentiful. Good timing that was.
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 08, 2015
I can't wait to share this with my children. The cosmos is a wonderful thing.
5 / 5 (3) Aug 08, 2015
The same photo is appearing on many web sites.
5 / 5 (1) Aug 10, 2015
Spectacular is in quotes because if you're not under dark skies after midnight it isn't.

Totally removes any positive feeling for "the magic of the cosmos" knowing denglish has been breeding.

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