(WMC) - Meteor showers are fun to watch, especially when they produce a lot of meteors. The biggest issue is trying to determine or forecast how good they will be each year.
We are coming up on the annual Perseid Meteor shower that peaks this weekend between August 11 - 13. The Perseids are usually well-advertised every year but do not always live up to the hype.
Some years, you only see a few meteors from this event and others you see hundreds. Unless conditions are nearly perfect, meteor showers can be a tremendous disappointment. But this round may be different, and there are already signs to prove it.
FIRST…WHAT IS THE PERSEID METEOR SHOWER? Known as the best meteor shower of the year, The Perseid meteors tend to be brighter, lengthier, and more spectacular because of their origin from Comet Swift-Tuttle. The Comet Swift-Tuttle is known as the single most dangerous object known to humanity. This comet has been orbiting for thousands of years, making the Perseids the most reliable meteor shower year-after-year.
THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE PERSEIDS: Every time a comet or asteroid orbits close to the Sun, the combination of heat and tidal forces puts strains and stresses on that rocky, icy body. Volatile compounds boil on the surface creating fractures and fissures on the main body and tiny particles are kicked off of it. Dust and ions give rise to the famous two tails of a comet, which can form a spectacular sight. But another phenomenon arises alongside these more spectacular, but short-lasting, displays: tiny fragments break off of the orbiting comet or asteroid. Over time, they will orbit the Sun along that same elliptical path. The key is that the path of the debris stream needs to cross Earth's orbit! As these particles move in their elliptical path, Earth can pass through that path, meaning that both the Earth and these particles will collide.
WHY SHOULD IT BE BETTER THAN PREVIOUS YEARS?
- NASA's network of all-sky meteor cameras is already picking up strong activity over the USA, counting 37 Perseid fireballs during the weekend of Aug. 4th-5th.
- It’s a new moon, meaning it will be a thin crescent and will set early. That means less light to obscure the view.
- According to NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke, the shower should feature 60 to 70 meteors per hour at its peak this year.
- Since it’s summer, you won’t have to deal with the cold…just the mosquitos.
The only fly in the ointment, so to speak, could be some passing clouds here in the Mid-South.