Eyes to the sky

August 1, 2019

Posted by Lake Erie Nature and Science Center

Look up! The Perseid Meteor Shower, one of the most spectacular meteor showers of the year, will peak the evening of Monday, August 12, 2019.

In preparation for this cosmic event, the Center’s planetarium staff explains what a meteor shower is and provides tips for seeing shooting stars this August.

What is a meteor shower?

Comets are large, icy Solar System bodies. As a comet passes closer to the Sun, its ice warms and begins to release particles of dust and rock into the atmosphere, which can result in a glowing trail of vapor.

Meteor showers occur when meteoroids, the rocks, and debris left behind by a comet, enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Meteoroids are almost always small enough to quickly burn up in our atmosphere, so there is little chance they will strike Earth’s surface. A meteorite is any part of the meteoroid that survives and lands on Earth.

Meteors, also known as “shooting stars,” are the streaks of light produced in the night sky when a meteoroid burns up in the Earth’s atmosphere.

How can I view the meteor shower?

Each year, Earth passes through the dust trail of Comet Swift-Tuttle, resulting in visible meteor showers. The Perseid Meteor Shower will peak the evening of August 12, 2019, and is one of the best opportunities to view shooting stars this year.

Meteor showers are named after the constellation where the meteors appear from. Look toward the constellation Perseus in the Northeastern sky between 9:30 p.m. and 5 a.m. to view shooting stars. During the peak, observers can expect to see 60-70 meteors per hour.

The key to seeing the Perseid Meteor Shower? Head to a dark area in the suburbs or countryside, lay down a blanket, bring some snacks and enjoy the celestial show. It takes 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark, so the longer you wait, the more you will see!

Topic: Astronomy