MERCER COUNTY, WV (WVNS) — You may have heard Chief Meteorologist Heidi Moore, Meteorologist Liam Healy, or Meteorologist Bradley Wells talking about one very special event happening this month: the Perseids Meteor Shower.
But what is the Perseids Meteor Shower, other than what is happening right above our heads all week long?
Well, the Dean of the Science, Math & Health Department at Concord University, Dr. Hathorne Allen, is here to explain.
“So, a meteor is a fragment of debris that comes from outer space through the earth’s atmosphere and close enough to the earth that it gets hot in our earth’s atmosphere and we can see it as it glows,” Dr. Hathorne Allen said.
When that debris burns up, it puts on one dazzling show in the night sky above us. Fragments as small as a grain of sand to small pebbles will make their way into our atmosphere over the next couple days. But where did all this debris come from?
“If a comet goes around the sun, it leaves a ring of debris behind it as it travels. Sometimes that ring of debris crosses the Earth’s orbit and where it crosses the Earth’s orbit when we plow through it, it will come through the atmosphere, and we can see it entering the atmosphere where we’re standing from on the surface of the Earth,” Dr. Hathorne-Allen said.
With the Perseids Meteor Shower, the comet in question that left a trail of debris is called the 109P Swift-Tuttle comet. It is an icy stellar body that orbits our sun. Where it takes Earth one year to orbit our sun, Swift-Tuttle takes 133 years to complete the same trip. The last pass of this comet was back in 1995.
On its way to our sun, it left dust and debris in our orbit which we pass through every year around the same time. The next time comet Swift-Tuttle will pass by our little world again will be July in the year 2126.
For those of us in 2021 though, viewing the Perseids Meteor Shower is expected to be one of the best yet. A bright moon often obscures viewing, but this year the Waxing Crescent sets around 10:30 p.m. leaving most of the night extra dark.
For the best viewing, moving away from city lights with an unobstructed view of the northeast to southwest sky is ideal. Other tricks would be to give yourself time for your eyes to adjust to the low light. While shooting stars are bright, something as simple as a cell phone screen can constrict your pupils making it harder to see the meteors.
Dr. Hathorne-Allen also said a red light, instead of a bright light, helps since our eyes are not affected by red light. If you do not have a red flashlight, a paper lunch bag can be used by placing the flashlight in the bag to use.
There is also a dark sky map you can use to find the darkest spot near you. That can be found here.
So if you do go out to see the meteor shower the nights of August 11, 12, or 13, and you do happen to catch a star, remember to make a wish.