DR. SKY BLOG

The best meteor shower of year will head across the sky soon

Jul 21, 2021, 2:00 PM
(AP File Photo)...
(AP File Photo)
(AP File Photo)

It’s that time again!

Get ready for the arrival of what may be the best meteor shower in all of 2021 as we head toward the peak of the Perseid meteor shower.

The annual Perseid meteor shower will be building up speed, and with hopefully clear skies, you may be in store for a real celestial treat.

The Perseids are active from about July 25 to Aug. 24, with a projected peak during the early morning hours of Aug. 12.

The meteor shower was first thought to come from the region of stars we call the constellation of Perseus. Astronomer Adolphe Quetelet first noticed a large group of bright meteors streaming out of this region of the sky back in 1835.

Thus, the shower is known as the Perseids.

The first connection between comets and meteor showers was brought to the attention of scientists when Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli noted that the passage of comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle in 1862.

This comet is the source of all the meteors which we call the Perseid meteor cloud. Every year, the Earth passes into the orbital plane of the comet and can provide us with an amazing display of comet debris.

Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle orbits the sun once every 133 years or so, and during these close encounters there is usually a surge of meteor debris seen in the sky.

The reason that the Perseids may be the best shower of 2021 is the fact that the moon will be new on Aug. 8, providing the darkest of skies.

Combine that with a peak for this celestial fireworks display on the night of Aug. 11, and it could give a real show if you live in an area that is away from city lights and monsoon storms.

The week of Aug. 8 is a great time to get in your Perseid mode and begin by looking to the northeast sky after 10 p.m.

The constellation of Perseus will rise higher and higher in this area of the sky.

The “radiant” of this shower will rise higher each hour and be nearly overhead by dawn, so look in all directions the closer you are to dawn.

You may get to see well over 60 meteors per hour. Some will be very bright, like fireballs, and leave a nice afterglow behind them.

Binoculars will help you see the amazing detail in these celestial contrails.

Singer John Denver observed the Perseids with family, and in his song “Rocky Mountain High” and added the lyrics, “I’ve seen it raining fire in the sky” — a nice tribute to this amazing sight in nature.

The parent comet of this meteor shower, 109P/Swift-Tuttle is a most amazing comet, was first seen by the Chinese in 69 B.C.

This comet is the largest solar system object that makes repeated close approaches to Earth and has been described by some as the most dangerous object known to humanity.

Of future close passes to Earth, there seems to be no specific date or time for an impact, just a very close encounter.

If the 20-mile or so cometary nucleus were to hit Earth, it would have 27 times the energy of the last impact extinction event known as the Cretaceous event 65 million years ago.

Now you know the story of the Perseids and how to view them and enjoy a display of space debris, most smaller than pebbles and sand-sized space debris.

For more information on the meteor shower and ways to find objects in our Arizona skies click here or here.

To print your own monthly star chart, click here.

To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.

Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM on Saturdays at 3 a.m.

The Dr.Sky Podcast is here.

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The best meteor shower of year will head across the sky soon