From The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center: The Perseid Meteor Showers return this weekend, starting Friday (Aug. 11). The waning moon will wash out fainter meteors, but as this meteor shower is known for its high prevalence of fireballs, there should still be a great sky show, with forty to fifty ‘shooting stars’ per minute visible in the night sky.
Each year at this time, the Earth encounters a field of remnants left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle during its passage through the inner solar system. As the Earth moves through this field of comet debris, the friction created by the tiny particles hurtling through our atmosphere at about 132,000 miles per hour makes the super-heated particles and air burn so brightly – reaching temperatures of up to 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit – that they appear to be ‘shooting stars’.
Discovery Center educators advise that best way to view the Perseids is to find a spot with a clear view of the night sky, look toward the northeast, find the constellation Cassiopeia (a big W shape made up of five stars), and locate a wishbone-shaped constellation nearby, the constellation Perseus. That is the spot at which the meteors will appear to originate. There is no advantage to looking through a telescope or binoculars, as they limit one’s field of view; people are more likely to see a good meteor show by just looking up! One good method is to lie in one’s backyard on a blanket or in a lounge chair; another great way is to get on board the MV Mount Washington on Friday night, August 11, for the cruise line’s annual “Shooting Stars in the Sky” event.
As the MV Mount Washington cruises around Lake Winnipesauke,Discovery Center Science Educator Dave McDonald, M.Ed., will guide ship passengers in meteor viewing and talk about meteors, meteorites, fireballs and past meteorite impacts of note. Tickets for this cruise are available through www.cruisenh.com.