Shooting Stars
August 10, 2004 9:32 AM   Subscribe

Step away from the computer. Go outside. Have a look. The annual Perseid meteor shower is gracing our skies for the next 48 hours, looking better than ever, as Earth passes through a filament trailing from a comet's tail. (Hopefully, the comet won't smash into us in 2126.)
posted by digaman (12 comments total)
Happy Notte di San Lorenzo from Italy.

I'll be watching from somewhere appropriately dark tonight.
posted by romakimmy at 9:47 AM on August 10, 2004

I just wanted to note that the Perseids have been gracing our skies for several weeks now, and will continue for several more. August 12-13 is the peak, but the cloud of cometary material does not have a sharply defined edge so that the shower turns on or off. It gradually builds to a peak as the Earth moves into the denser part of the "cloud" and then trails off again. (And this is true for all meteor showers as well.)

Also, meteors can be seen on any clear night, not just during "showers," so I second digiman's suggestion: Go outside and have a look!
posted by AstroGuy at 10:55 AM on August 10, 2004

*tries to pull plug on Atlanta's power grid so stars can be seen*
posted by NationalKato at 12:57 PM on August 10, 2004

*prays for the fog to lift for either tonight or tomorrow*
posted by Lynsey at 1:09 PM on August 10, 2004

These snippets from bbc news prompts more questions:
The Perseids are caused when the Earth passes through debris shed by Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. This comet travels through the inner planets every 130 years, most recently in 1992. The annual celestial event is a firm favourite of sky watchers.
So if the comet only comes round every 130 years, how come the meteor shower is annual?
Even with a density similar to cigarette ash, encountering the upper atmosphere is like hitting a brick wall - Neil Bone, British Astronomical Association
So if a dust particle hits a brick wall, how does it keep on travelling? And why ain't it totally consumed?
posted by dash_slot- at 1:15 PM on August 10, 2004

dash slot-: The Earth crosses the orbit of the comet at the same time every year as it orbits the Sun. The comet's elliptical orbit is filled with debris from the comet, so even if the comet isn't close by, the Earth still passes through its trail. Second question: a) momentum, and b) it is totally consumed--only much larger objects actually reach the Earth's surface.
posted by AstroGuy at 1:41 PM on August 10, 2004

*looks out window*

"foggy, hmph"

*stares at screen*

it'd be nice if i could see it, but as with 90% of major astronomical events i just don't get the weather here, sigh.
posted by knapah at 2:19 PM on August 10, 2004

Thanx AstroGuy.

I see that it will eventually be consumed: I'm just astonished that 'a speck of dust' being burnt in the sky can have so spectacular an effect. Wonders never cease.
posted by dash_slot- at 2:23 PM on August 10, 2004

I hope its webcast.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 2:49 PM on August 10, 2004

*cries as he remembers he lives in the horrific orange glow of LA*
I'll have to head our local mountains to see anything more that a few dozen stars. Thanks for the heads up!
posted by brism at 3:01 PM on August 10, 2004

I like to go out and look at the Perseids, particularly because they usually peak on my birthday (August 12) or a day or so before. They're pretty.

Brism: you can go up Angeles Crest and get a decent view of them.
posted by bedhead at 3:45 PM on August 10, 2004

Damn clouds.
posted by mrbula at 11:25 PM on August 10, 2004

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