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Utah Skies: Peak Of The Perseid Meteor Shower

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Stellarium

The following is an unedited transcript.

It’s not unusual to look up at the night sky and see a swift moving object light up the sky and just as quickly disappear.   These are known as meteors and are generally small dust grains or particles from asteroids or comets.  We see them   enter the earth’s atmosphere at 60 miles up at a high rate of speed of 30,000m mph.   As they enter the upper atmosphere the heat vaporizes them creating what are known as shooting stars. Larger meteors that survive the trip through the atmosphere and reach the ground are called meteorites.

Throughout the year many of these meteors enter the atmosphere in random directions.  But many come at predictable times during the year and are known as meteor showers.  A meteor shower happens when the earth as it orbits the sun pass through the particles left from a comet’s tail.  Astronomers know the dates and direction of these meteor showers.

Meteor showers are named after the constellations they appear in as they enter the atmosphere.

The Perseid shower is coming this week.  This shower is associated with the comet Swift Tuttle which orbits the sun every 133 years.    Earth passes through the comet’s debris tail every August. This year the Perseids will peak on the morning hours of August 11, 12, and 13.  You should expect about 60 meteors per minute as the earth moves through the comets tail the meteors will radiate out of the constellation Perseus in the northeastern sky after midnight.

You won’t need special equipment, just an unrestricted sky, and a comfortable reclining lawn chair. Have patience and spend at least an hour under the stars. 

Script: Tom Westre

Cache Valley Astronomical Society