This weekend will be a great time to head out of town to the great outdoors, especially at night.
This is the weekend of the annual Perseid meteor shower, with the peak nights on Aug. 11 and Aug. 12. On these two nights, more than 100 meteors — shooting stars — can be seen per hour.
The shower is the result of Earth encountering the gritty debris of Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle that occurred in 1992. These meteors will strike the atmosphere at around 60 km per second and cause long streaks which then completely vapourize. The average particle size is that of large sand grain but some small pea gravel size meteors can cause bright fireballs that light up the sky and ground.
Backyard astronomer Gary Boyle said that the whole shower is about five weeks long but this weekend, the earth will be hitting the highest concentration of the debris. This occurs every year around this time, but Boyle said that this year is special because it also falls on a new moon, meaning the meteor shower will be more visible than most years.
“A new moon is when the moon is not seen at all. It occurs during a solar eclipse when the moon crosses in front of the sun so there’s no illumination in the sky,” said Boyle. “Next year’s shower, the moon will be 90 per cent lit which means it puts a giant glow in the sky and you may only be able to see 40 or 50 meteors. But this year because of the new moon, there’s no interference at all so people should head out and take a look this weekend.”
Boyle encourages people to grab some bug spray, head away from the city lights and watch nature’s show.
“These really light up the sky,” he added. “You can always see a picture of a meteor or a video but to see it live, it’s not the same.”
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