If possible, you should make plans to be outside these next couple weeks to spend some time under the night sky. The chances are good that you may see a few “shooting stars” or meteors. Meteors are produced when the earth passes through the trail of a comet. Comets, balls of ice and rock, shed small particles as they orbit close to the sun. When the earth passes through this debris field of sand-sized pieces meteors are produced. The small particles, called meteoroids, heat up as they hit the earth’s atmosphere at 45,000 miles per hour creating a bright glowing streak of light. As the earth passes through this debris field a meteor shower occurs. Over the next few weeks five different meteor showers will take place; the Capricornids, the Delta Aquarids, the Piscis Austrinids, the Alpha Capricornids and, the Perseids. Some of these showers may only produce about five meteors per hour. The Delta Aquarids may produce up to 20 per hour on its peak date of July 29. The Perseids shower could produce up to 80 per hour at its peak. The Perseids shower occurs from July 23 to August 22 with a peak date of August 12-13. The best place to view a shower is in a spot away from city lights with a wide view of the night sky. So take a pillow and a blanket and head outside these next couple of weeks and enjoy the show.
Michael E. Palmer is a writer and photographer based in Alabama.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org