by Gary Boyle
The Backyard Astronomer
The highlight of any summer other than camping and going to the cottage is viewing the annual Perseid Meteor Shower. This year, the peak night occurs on the night of August 12 into the morning of the 13th. We should see 60 to 80 meteors (commonly called shooting stars) dashing through the sky at 59 km/second, lighting up the night. This is peak night but the entire shower runs from July 14 to September 1. There could also be a possibility of enhanced activity on the night of Aug 13 from 9 pm to 10:45 pm eastern.
What we are seeing is earth plowing through the dusty debris of Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, a 26 km or 16 mile wide mountain of ice, dust and gravel that last appeared in 1992 in its 133-year orbit around the sun. It will return in the year 2125.
In his 1972 song “Rocky Mountain High”, American singer-songwriter John Denver refers to his experience watching the Perseid meteor shower during a family camping trip in the mountains near Aspen, Colorado, with the chorus lyric,
“I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky
The shadow from the starlight is softer than a lullaby”.
The 8% waning crescent moon will rise at around 3 am and will not interfere with viewing the faint meteors.
Known as “The Backyard Astronomer”, Gary Boyle is an astronomy educator, guest speaker and monthly columnist for the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. He has been interviewed on more than 55 Canadian radio stations as well as television across Canada and the U.S. In recognition of his public outreach in astronomy, the International Astronomical Union has honoured him with the naming of Asteroid (22406) Garyboyle. Follow him on Twitter: @astroeducator, Facebook and his website: www.wondersofastronomy.com.