Star Gazing – Annual Perseids Show peaks this weekend

The weekend of August 11-13 will be a great time for heading out of town to the great outdoors, especially at night. This is the weekend of the annual Perseid meteor shower and during the peak nights of Aug 11/12 and Aug 12/13; more than 100 meteors (shooting stars) can be seen per hour.

The shower is the result of Earth encountering the gritty debris of Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. These meteors will strike the atmosphere at around 60 km/sec and cause long streaks which completely vaporize. The average particle size is that of large sand grain but some small pea gravel size meteors can cause bright fireballs that light up the sky and ground.

It is best to head out of town to enjoy the dark skies with the beautiful Milky Way stretching from the south and continuing overhead. The planet Saturn is immersed in the band of stars above the constellation Sagittarius. Find a wide open area and bring a lawn chair, snacks and bug spray but respect trespassing on private property and fields. The planet Mars will keep you company all night long as it low in the south-east as the sky darkens. The New Moon occurs on the 11th so it will not wash out the sky with its brilliance like other years.

Gary Boyle

Known as “The Backyard Astronomer”, Gary Boyle is an astronomy educator, guest speaker and monthly columnist for the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. He has been interviewed on more than 50 Canadian radio stations and local Ottawa TV. In recognition of his public outreach in astronomy, the International Astronomical Union has honoured him with the naming of Asteroid (22406) Garyboyle. Follow him on Twitter: @astroeducator or his website: www.wondersofastronomy.com

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