Every August, the Earth passes through a patch of space that's a tad grittier than usual; the planet's orbit intersects with that of the comet Swift-Tuttle, the latter being filled with the cast-off from the slowly melting ice-ball. When this detritus hits Earth's atmospheres, the massive energy of the collision is enough to produce a light-show we colloqually call "shooting stars." While this explanation of the Perseid Meteor Shower's origin might be enough for some; Ethan Siegel stays true to his blog's name and Starts with a Bang!. Tracing the comet's origin to the Kuiper Belt, the Kuiper Belt's origin to the formation of the Solar System, and so on, Ethan connects these ephemeral streaks of light to the birth of the universe itself. If you want to experience them firsthand. The USA Science and Engineering Festival Blog has some viewing tips courtesy of one of their partner organizations, EarthSky. Your best chance is after midnight tonight, so happy meteor hunting!
Starts with a bang!August 11, 2010
"Where should you look? The same place you look every year: towards the constellation Cassiopeia, easily visible from most places on Earth! You most certainly won't be sorry. Not only can you check out the photo gallery from last year's Perseids, here's a long-exposure photo with a fisheye lens of a meteor shower over the course of a couple of hours. But where do meteor showers come from in the first place? I've been asked to start at the beginning, so let's go all the way back to the early stages of the Big Bang."
The USA Science & Engineering Festival BlogAugust 11, 2010
"The 2010 Perseid meteor shower - August's famous 'shooting stars' - will peak in this coming week, on the mornings of August 12 and 13. The shower has been gradually rising to a peak since early August. Any night this week, you might see Perseid meteors. The Perseids are considered by many people to be the year's best shower. They often peak at 50 or more meteors per hour, and 2010 is a great year for watching them. This year, the slender waxing crescent moon will set at early evening, leaving a dark sky for this year's Perseid display."
I had a chance to do a little stargazing last week when I was on the peaceful and pristine Block Island, though now that I'm back on a slightly more densely populated island there's almost no chance I'll see any of the Perseids outside of a computer monitor. If you're more fortunately located, give us a report back tomorrow.