The Perseid meteor shower peaks tonight and the weather looks good
Tonight is the night, the show of the summer sky so gather up the kids and head outside somewhere dark where you can see the stars to witness the Perseid meteor shower. It peaks tonight and the weather forecast looks good.
The Perseids, named after the Perseus constellation, are bits of the comet Swift-Tuttle and Earth is passing through its dust. It is kind of like when you watch a truck going down the road (which would be the comet) and you watch the dust behind the truck (that is what the Perseids are).
While it is hard to believe, most of those beautiful streaks in the sky are the size of a grain of sand. When that dust/sand hits our atmosphere, it burns up and gives that streak of light.
The best time to see them is between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Look for the W- shaped constellation (Casseopia) and keep your eyes open.
You should be able to see one every few minutes. Some are spectacular with colour from the minerals from the debris.
The comet itself, Swift-Tuttle (named after Lewis Swift and Horace Parnell Tuttle, in 1882) is a very long ellipse. It was last visible in 1992 and will next pass close to us again in 2125. Its orbit goes close to the sun, past Pluto and then back again.
It is 26 km across and is twice the size of the object that hit the earth and wiped out the dinosaurs. Don't worry. It won't hit us for centuries.
The dust cloud that Swift-Tuttle leaves behind sits in space and every year as we make our orbit, we go through it.
It is a sight to behold and not to be missed. Grab some s'mores and popcorn and enjoy the show.
Photo: Courtesy NASA