Meteor showers to light up the night sky

Meteor showers to light up the night sky

Indians are some of the privileged few to witness the astounding Perseid meteor shower in August. It is an exceptional celestial spectacle for sky observers. The yearly Perseid showers will illuminate the night sky on August 11 and 12. 

The meteor shower generally reaches its peak around August 12 every year, but its meteors can be seen for about three weeks around this date. At least a dozen historic chronicles about this shower between 36 AD and 1451 AD have been recorded. 

The shower was known as “Tears of St Lawrence”, after the saint whose festival occurs around the same time. In 1866, the Italian astronomer Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli (1835-1910) demonstrated that the Perseids had the same orbit as the comet Swift-Tuttle. 

The Perseid meteor shower is an annual phenomenon that is extremely regular in its timing and can be visible for weeks in the late summer sky, depending on the weather and location. 

Nomenclature

It has been named after the constellation Perseus from which the meteor shower seems to originate. Although, this is a useful naming convention, it is not very accurate. The source of the Perseid meteor shower is actually debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle. 

Every year, the earth passes through the debris cloud left by the comet when the Earth’s atmosphere is bombarded by what is popularly known as falling stars. This year, visibility will be somewhat limited by a crescent moon on August 13 which is likely wipe out fainter meteors from view. Because of the way the debris cloud hits this earth, the Perseid meteor shower is much more visible in the Northern hemisphere.

The location of Perseids can be anywhere in the night sky. Wobbly meteors will emerge as nippy, petite smudges while the brighter Perseids will hover across the sky for numerous seconds with a succinct trajectory of shimmering smoke. The Perseids are probably the most-watched annual meteor shower. The duration of the shower is quite long, from about July 15 to August 25. 

For Northern Hemisphere observers, August is usually regarded as “meteor month” with one of the best displays of the year reaching its peak near mid-month. That display is, of course, the annual Perseid Meteor Shower loved by everyone from meteor enthusiasts to summer campers. 

But skywatchers beware: You will be facing a major obstacle in your attempt to observe this year’s Perseid performance, namely, the Moon.  The Moon will be hovering below and to the left of the Great Square of Pegasus that night and not that far from the constellation Perseus, from where the meteors will appear to emanate. 

This year, however, the waning gibbous moon will not be too much of a hindrance during the morning hours. 

The meteoric sparkles will obviously last a fortnight; the finest screening is possible during pre-dawn hours. Rates for most observers will probably top out at around 15-30 Perseids per hour, with a few sporadic and minor shower meteors added to the mix.

DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get top news in your inbox daily
GET IT
Comments (+)