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The Perseid Meteor Shower
It’s that time again and this evening should be the peak, according to the experts. NASA’s Meteroid Environment Centre reports that the Perseids show is one of the best meteor showers of the year, frequently producing the most fireballs. This comet was named after astronomers Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle who first discovered it, in 1862.
Tonight’s show is courtesy of the Comet Swift-Tuttle’s most recent visit near earth, in 1992. The best time to watch is between midnight and dawn. You should plan to spend at least an hour, so you’ll need to take a cozy blanket and a comfy chair (a recliner works best). If you watch the northern part of the sky, you’re bound to see some of the comet debris which will seem to flash across the sky, almost like fireworks. Experts estimate that the debris is composed of particles are anywhere from a fraction of the size of a grain of sand, to the size of a baseball. Hurtling toward at the rate of some 60 kilometers per second; the fragment begins to burn as it comes into contact with the Earth’s upper atmosphere.
There may be hundreds of these streaks of light in the sky this evening. Some will appear more brightly than others and some will give off a noticeable hue; as flashes of different colours depend on the chemical composition of each tiny piece. This year, the show is expected to be more vivid, thanks to the waxing crescent moon which is less likely to obscure the view. (Of course, nothing beats stargazing in cottage country!)
Swift-Tuttle, itself, is next expected to visit in 2125.