Perseid Meteors streaking to Earth! WARNING: You may get mooned.
photo from NASA/SCIENCE
THE FACTS, WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM NASA:
The Perseid meteor shower is caused by debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle. When Mother Earth zips through the debris field, specks of that comet slam into our atmosphere and are consumed in flashes of light. Some are brilliant, others are faint lines of light. They are all called Perseids because they fly out of the constellation Perseus. Your little one calls them shooting stars. Me too.
"The meteor shower is already underway. According to the International Meteor Organization, worldwide observers now are counting more than a dozen Perseids per hour with more to come on August 12-13 when Earth passes near the heart of the debris stream." NASA SCIENCE
Swift-Tuttle's debris zone is so vast our planet spends weeks travelling inside the debris zone . Go outside at this very moment if it is night - no matter what moment it is within a week of August 13 - and you might see a Perseid. More likely than not--you won't. You will just feed hungry mosquitoes.
Here's Why: The peak of this year’s Perseids is August 12-13, but you being 'mooned' by a heavenly body - our moon- is much more likely than seeing stars streaking. Our full moon will outshine all but the brightest players of this year's shooting star display. But do not give up too soon. You may get lucky and spot a brighter fireball or two despite moon shine. And since the Perseids can be seen in small numbers for several weeks on either side of the peak night, you might try to view a few when the Moon isn’t quite so full a few days after the peak period.
My Tips: Lunar glare wipes out a good meteor shower so if I was you - and I am not - I would head for the darker countryside tonight in hopes of seeing meteors streak into our atmosphere before they are drowned in moon glare. I'm lucky. No street lights in my neck of the woods. (Meteors are almost impossible to see near city lights. ) If you do not see any during moon glow in the middle of the night, get back outside just before dawn rise when the moon is sleepy and wea andsettle in a lawn chair with coffee and bug spray. You may see a few! But I'll be happy with my night meander regardless, and celebrate the whinny of screech owls from my pines, the hum of zillions of crickets and perhaps the trill of a treefrog, the deep song of a bullfrog or sharp yip of a coyote -- and of course the full moon exposure on a sultry summer night--------.
There is no bad night in the world of nature!
And there is a bonus:
"Before dawn is also the time of the International Space Sation flyby. All week long and into the weekend, the International Space Station will be making a series of early-morning passes over the United States. The massive spacecraft glides silently among the stars, shining so brightly that moonlight and even city lights have little affect on its visibility. You simply cannot miss it if you know when to look. Check NASA's ISS Tracker for local flyby times." NASA@SCIENCE
If I had planned ahead I would be at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore sitting on a sand dune on the shore of Lake Michigan, one of the best places in Michigan to enjoy the streaking in the sky or the glow of being mooned, or just celebrating the wonders of nature and Mother Earth.
Note to self: Mark my calander for Perseid 2012.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Full moon of July 2011 from the dunes