Aug 12, 2007

Perseid Meteor Shower to Peak Tonight

Left: Time-lapse image of Perseid meteor shower courtesy of

If you are looking for low-budget entertainment tonight, consider looking to the night sky. The Perseid meteor shower occurs around this time each year as the Earth passes through a trail of debris left in the wake of Comet Swift-Tuttle.

At the storm's peak, which will occur at 2:00 a.m. EDT on Monday, there will be as many as one to two meteoroids per minute. The Perseid shower - so named because the streaks of light seem to emanate from the constellation Perseus - will commence around 9 p.m. on Sunday in the northeast and continue until dawn Monday. The meteor storm gives off no appreciable amounts of radiation, so one need not be concerned with EMI shielding, unlike solar storms.

My wife and I went out last night to see the previews of tonight's show, given that the local weather forecast is calling for scattered thunderstorms today and tonight. I saw one decent contrail that streaked from the north, as well as a handful of faint streaks.

The meteor shower is the result of dust and rock from the Comet Swift-Tuttle, which made its last pass in 1992. This comet will likely one day strike either the Earth or the Moon, given the fact that its orbit interescts those of the aforementioned celestial bodies. Swift-Tuttle will not return until 2126.

We drove out to the countryside to escape the glare of city lights, but we picked a road with an annoying amount of traffic. Still, most of the enjoyment of watching a meteor shower is the company, and holding hands with my wife on a moonless summer night was the highlight of the trip.