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Unstrange Phenomena

17 August 2009

Astronomy: Where Do All the Perseid Meteor Showers Come From During August Nights?

From Denny: Have you been enjoying the meteor showers the past week? They were the best on August 12th. Unfortuately, my sky was heavy with rain clouds that night and the next so I missed the biggest show of meteors. Hopefully, some of you got a much better view than I did.

Even this morning around 4:30 AM we went out and saw a few meteors streaking across the sky! Yay! There are still a few sky crumbs left to enjoy as there have been the past few days since my sky cleared! :)

We just pull out the lawn chairs, sit in the dark with the cats who lounge around and we all sip good strong Louisiana coffee au lait to start our morning! The moon sliver was on its back today and around here that means cooler weather is coming. We are so ready for a break from this heat index of 109 degrees F. daily.

Here's what astronomer Chris Peterson from Cloudbait Observatory had to comment today about where the Perseid meteor showers originate: "In terms of direction on the sky, the pointed answer is the constellation of Perseus. That is why the last week's meteor shower was known as the Perseids -- the meteors all appear to come from a radiant toward Perseus.

"Three dimensionally, however, sand-sized debris expelled from Comet Swift-Tuttle follows a well-defined orbit about our Sun, and the part of the orbit that approaches Earth is superposed in front of the Perseus. Therefore, when Earth crosses this orbit, the radiant point of falling debris appears in Perseus.

"Pictured above, a composite image of this year's Pereids meteor shower shows many bright meteors that streaked through the sky on August 12. To the surprise of many, the next night, August 13, also showed many meteors, as demonstrated by rolling one's cursor over the above image by going here.

"This year's Leonids meteor shower in November is expected by some to be exceptionally active, perhaps producing as many as 500 meteors per hour."

Photo from Astronomy Pic of the Day This is a composite image of 96 meteors collected between sunset on August 11 through sunrise on August 12.

From Denny: Make sure you check out all the linked words in this post as there are some fabulous photos and more information, including a chart of constellations you will enjoy.

I can't wait until November for the next big show of meteor showers! Hard to imagine 500 meteors an hour...

astronomy, Perseid meteor showers, meteors, Perseus, constellations
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