Volume: 01, Issue: 09
A Perseid fireball photographed in 1997 by Rick Scott and Joe Orman.
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Other Articles in This Issue:
1,000 Days of Human Presence on the International Space Station
Mars Gets Cozy With Earth
Expedition 8 Crew Appointed to Manage International Space Station
 

Wishing Opportunities Scheduled to Increase a Hundred Fold

Every August, stargazers and astronomers grab their blankets or reclining lawn chairs, turn off their porch lights or find a secluded area outside of the city limits, and watch as the Perseids burn their way across the night sky. The Perseids are a regular shower of meteors that collide with Earth's atmosphere once a year, treating us to almost 100 shooting stars an hour on peak nights. This year, the night of August 13th will provide the best viewing, especially around 4 in the morning.

Unfortunately, this year there will also be a rather full and bright moon, which will make it difficult or impossible to see the fainter meteors. However, there should be plenty to see if you don't look directly at the moon, and even more if you manage to hide the moon behind a building or a thicket of trees.

The Perseids are so named because they appear to be radiating from a point within the constellation Perseus. They are actually bits of debris left by Comet Swift-Tuttle as it crossed Earth's orbit. This is why they are so regular. As Earth follows its path around the Sun, it grazes this stream of debris once a year, pulling out chucks of rock, dust, and ice. These chucks generate a lot of friction and heat as they fall through the atmosphere and create the glowing streaks that are often called shooting stars.

To learn more about the Perseids and the best way to view them, check out:
http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2003/17jul_perseids2003.htm

    
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