Saturday, August 12, 2006

Have you heard a good meteor lately?

Here in the northern hemisphere, the annual Perseid meteor shower is peaking. But even if it wasn't cloudy in my neighborhood, the moon and all the skyglow from the lights of my town would prevent me from enjoying all but the brightest meteors tonight. So right now I'm listening to the Perseids via a live radar feed from Roswell, New Mexico (no, don't even start). Against a background of static and the occasional long whine of a passing plane, I'm hearing the brief, spooky ping of a real, live meteor every couple of minutes. (Whoa, that was a big one!)

The Perseids are named for Perseus, the constellation that's in the part of the sky the meteors of this particular "shower" appear to radiate from. What's happening? Well, there's this comet, see, Comet Swift-Tuttle. And on its last trip around the sun, it dropped a few crumbs. For the most part, those bits of ice and rock are not much bigger than grains of sand--although some are as large as your littlest fingernail (unless, of course, you're one of those weird individuals in the Guinness Book of World Records). But even those sand-size particles make a nice little light show when they hit our atmosphere. Although it's more accurate to say that our atmosphere hits them, as this annual display (which comes to a sky near you every August 12) is caused by the earth passing through Comet Swift-Tuttle's field of debris.

For more on meteors, see this post. (Yes, I am a geek.)

Since it's after midnight, I'm calling this Saturday's post and signing off for the weekend. Everybody have fun within reason, and be sure to let me know if you see or hear any good meteors.

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