Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Sky gazers across the country can expect to see some celestial fireworks at night on Tuesday and Wednesday as the night sky will be lit up by the annual Perseid meteor shower.
The Perseid meteor will appear to originate in the northeastern sky, near the constellation Perseus, and shoot off in all directions.
The meteor shower is expected to peak on Tuesday and Wednesday night, when about 30 to 200 shooting stars would be visible every hour.
"People can watch for the meteor showers during the early hours Wednesday. There will be fireballs in the sky," N. Rathnasree, director Nehru Planetarium, told IANS.
The Perseid meteor shower is caused when the earth passes close to the orbit of the comet Swift-Tuttle. The comet was discovered in 1862 and takes some 130 years to circle our solar system.
"A meteor is commonly called a shooting star. These shooting stars can be seen on any night, but when the number of meteors is large, it is called a meteor shower," Rathnashree said.
Meteor showers occur when earth crosses the cometary orbit. As comets move about their orbits they leave a stream of debris when dust and rocky material is liberated from its head as the ice vapourises.
The fast-flying Perseid meteor showers would pick up steam only after midnight, and the greatest numbers of meteors would rain down shortly before dawn, she said.
"The meteor showers last for just a fraction of a second before they are gone. Better keep a close look at the sky for the beautiful show," Rathnashree said.
According to scientists, this year's Perseid meteor shower could be better than usual because of comet dust that has come close to the earth.
The US space agency NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office has said a "filament of comet dust" has drifted across earth's path, and when earth passes through it on Aug 12, the Perseid meteor shower rate could surge to twice its normal value.
Bright moonlight would be a hindrance to catching sight of the meteor shower. Scientists suggest that one should look away from the moon in order to watch the celestial activity.