Updates About Meteor Showers for 2013

Jul 17

Perseids Meteor Shower Good Ole’ Reliable

It’ that time of year for the Perseids Meteor Shower! Right now, the Earth is passing through fragments and dust trails created by the Comet Swift-Tuttle and this means the Perseids Meteor Shower has started and will be getting stronger each day until its peak on August 12th. Lewis Swift and Horace Parnell-Tuttle discovered the Swift-Tuttle Comet in July of 1862. The comet passed by Earth in 1992 and will not return again until 2126, however the dust that follows this comet creates a dependable annual meteor shower, the Perseids.

Perseids Meteor Shower Good Ole’ Reliable

The Perseids is named after constellation Perseus because meteors seem to spread out from an area surrounding the constellation, this is called the radiant. The Perseids Meteor Shower is one of the world’s most famous astronomical summertime events and is called “Ole Reliable” because the Perseids always seems to be an enjoyable strong August meteor shower. The reason for its popularity is that people living in the northern hemisphere are usually treated to warmer weather which makes viewing much more enjoyable. Trust me, I know from years of experience and have been known to stand out in the freezing cold for hours (warm weather is better).

The Perseids Meteor Shower will peak in the morning of August 12 where meteors can be seen anywhere in the sky. The main thing to viewing any meteor shower is to find a safe, dark place away from man-made lights and lean back in a relaxing position looking toward the darkest part of the sky. Sometimes the Moon can be a hindrance, but this year the Moon will not be shedding much light, as during the peak it will be a waxing crescent Moon phase, so this means more visible meteors.

Perseids Meteor Shower Radiant

Perseids Meteor Shower Radiant

Perseids Meteor Shower General Rules

As a general rule for this meteor shower I say look to the northeast, but no one ever really knows where meteors will appear. I’d like to give you an exact time to view the shower, but meteor shower observation still remains one of the most complicated astronomical events to foresee, so having said that, try observing in the late evening of August 11th into the early morning of August 12th.  Meteor showers are misunderstood, a lot of people think they are nighttime events, they’re actually better seen closer to dawn and I’ve heard this year some scientists believe that the Perseids could produce up to 100 or more meteors per hour so there will be no lack of chances to see meteors skipping across the sky.

The Perseids Meteor Shower consists of meteoroids mostly as small as a grain of sand but occasionally softball size meteoroids will create large fireballs. I truly don’t know what to expect and for me that’s part of the excitement. Additionally, Perseids meteors enter the Earth’s atmosphere at amazingly fast speeds as high as 133,000 mile per hour and even though most are the size of a grain of sand you’ll still see them glowing and whizzing through the air. Perseids are not usually known for massive fireballs, but anything is possible.

Your questions and comments are always welcome. Please bookmark the site, join the mailing list and if you have enjoyed my articles please consider buying me a cup of coffee to keep me alert for meteor shower viewing in the morning!

Keep your head up!

- Meteor Mark

May 02

May Meteor Showers Prevail

Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower

Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower

The follow-up to the Lyrids meteor shower has already started. Since April 19th the Eta Aquariids meteor shower has been very active. As the weather heats up in the northern hemisphere, meteor shower events become more prolific and dynamic.

Around May 3rd this meteor shower will become even more frisky. One thing nice about the Eta Aquariids is that it’s known to have a full week of activity. So before its peak on May 6th, you could be treated to even more meteors streaming across the morning and evening sky. Expect to see 15 to 20 meteors per hour. Then, in the morning of May 6th, the meteor shower may explode with up to 50 meteors per hour.

How did the Eta Aquariids get its name?

It was named after the constellation Aquarius, as it appears to radiate from this cluster of stars. Meteor enthusiasts should be able to see a meteor per minute. This is due to lack of moonlight, as the moon will be in the waning crescent phase, shedding virtually no “light pollution”.

When and where should one look to see this meteor shower?

I’ve stated before that meteors can be seen anywhere in the sky. But you can’t be straining your neck, trying to search the whole sky. So it’s always better to pick a spot and concentrate on it. The best starting point to start looking for this shower is the meteor shower’s radiant.

What’s the radiant?

The radiant for the Eta Aquariids, for people living north of the equator is Aquarius. The constellation Aquarius is located, low on the horizon in the south-eastern sky. For those south of the equator, Aquarius is located more toward the east and higher in the sky. Remember, meteors will seem to emanate from the radiant. So tracing the backward path of a meteor will usually point to the constellation, after which the meteor shower is named.

Meteor Shower and a Comet - Credit: NASA

A Comet – Credit: NASA

A comet is the cause of the Eta Aquariids Meteor Shower

In fact, the comet responsible for this meteor shower is one of the most famous comets of all time, Halley’s Comet. Even though Halley’s Comet came near Earth in 1986, we still pass through the remnants of its tail, every successive year since. Also, even before Halley’s Comet made its last spectacular Earth visit, it’s mere travelling through space was producing Eta Aquariids meteor events on an annual basis.

Why do meteor showers happen at the same time each year?

Comets are always on time! We happen to pass through the dust trails and debris of a comet that orbits our Sun, at the same time each year. Furthermore, for thousands upon thousands of years meteoroids get pulled into the path of the parent comet and then blast into Earth’s atmosphere. The result is a consistent meteor shower that never runs out of ammunition. The great Halley’s Comet is responsible for more than one meteor shower every year. The next shower on its calender is the Orionids Meteor Shower in October.

Eta Aquariids meteor shower facts:

Let’s talk about speed! Eta Aquariids meteors move at 68 kilometers per second or approximately 150,000 plus miles per hour! They are bright and will create smoke trails or persistent trains. Get out there and don’t miss out on all the action!

Here are the dates for the next meteor shower.

η-Aquariids Meteor Shower
Start Date: April 19
Peak Date: May 6
End Date: May 28

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Keep your head up.

- Meteor Mark