Thursday, August 12, 2010

See (and hear) the meteor show

See (and hear) the meteor show





  • Alan Boyle writes: When the late show is over, turn off the TV, step outside and catch a late, late show in the night sky. It's prime time for the Perseids, arguably the most accessible meteor shower of the year.
    "If you want comfort, this is the shower to see," said Bill Cooke, the head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office at Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama.
    Every night, Cooke has been turning on a couple of all-sky cameras in Alabama and Georgia to catch meteor trails as they streak through the sky. This year's been a great one for the Perseids, in large part because the moon doesn't glare in the sky when the show is getting good.
    The absolute best viewing is expected Thursday night - actually, between midnight Thursday and dawn on Friday. Perseid meteors should be visible every night from now until next week. At its peak, observers could see at least one meteor every minute, Cooke told me. You just have to know where and when to look - and the experience goes much more smoothly if you make a few preparations.




  • First, some basic facts about meteors: As explained in our interactive graphic, meteor showers occur when our planet plows through a trail of space grit left behind by a comet. Those bits of grit zip through the upper atmosphere at speeds of more than 125,000 miles per hour, lighting up a trail of ionized air.
    Don't worry: There's virtually no risk of being hit by one of these falling stars. Most of this grit burns up dozens of miles above us. A week ago, Cooke's camera in Alabama snapped a picture of a fireball lighting up the sky much more brightly than any planet - and even that sparkler self-destructed at an altitude of about 56 miles.




  • Read more at the link.
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