Eyes to the sky on Aug. 11
Look up! The Perseid Meteor Shower, one of the most spectacular meteor showers of the year, will occur the evening of Saturday, Aug. 11.
In preparation for this cosmic event, planetarium specialist Monica Marshall of Lake Erie Nature & Science Center is here to explain what a meteor shower is and provide tips for seeing shooting stars this August.
What is a meteor shower?
Comets are large, icy solar system bodies. As a comet passes closer to the sun, its ice warms and begins to release particles of dust and rock into the atmosphere, which can result in a glowing trail of vapor.
Meteor showers occur when meteoroids, the rocks and debris left behind by a comet, enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Meteoroids are almost always small enough to quickly burn up in our atmosphere, so there is little chance they will strike Earth's surface. A meteorite is any part of the meteoroid that survives and lands on Earth.
Meteors, also known as “shooting stars,” are the streaks of light produced in the night sky when a meteoroid burns up in the Earth’s atmosphere.
How can I view the meteor shower?
Each year, Earth passes through the dust trail of Comet Swift-Tuttle, resulting in visible meteor showers. The Perseid Meteor Shower will occur the evening of Aug. 11, and is set to be the best opportunity to see shooting stars this year.
Meteor showers are named after the constellation where the meteors appear from. Look toward the constellation Perseus in the northeastern sky between 9:30 p.m. and 5 a.m. to view shooting stars. During peak, observers can expect to see 60-70 meteors per hour.
The key to seeing the Perseid Meteor Shower? Head to a dark area in the suburbs or countryside, lay down a blanket, bring some snacks and enjoy the celestial show. It takes 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark, so the longer you wait, the more you will see!
Bonus: There will be a new moon on Aug. 11, a crescent, which will result in favorable viewing conditions.
At approximately 9 p.m. on Aug. 11, join Lake Erie Nature & Science Center at Huntington Beach of Cleveland Metroparks to view the meteor shower through telescopes with planetarium staff.
Interested in astronomy? Stay up to date by joining Lake Erie Nature & Science Center’s monthly Astronomy Club. NASA JPL Solar System Ambassador Bill Reed will share what’s new in space, the latest gadgets, mind-blowing facts and more. Monthly meetings are free to the public with special events and telescope rentals exclusive to Lake Erie Nature & Science Center members. Next meeting: Wednesday, Aug. 15, 6:30 p.m. Learn more at www.lensc.org.
Morgan Paskert is on staff at Lake Erie Nature & Science Center.