Posted by: tpsciencefun | April 23, 2012

Meteors-R-Us

Why do we see meteors in the night sky? When will be the best time to observe a good meteor show again?? When is the best time for viewing in 2012??  Read on to find out more!!

Happy Viewing!

Alan Dyer
Meteor Showers in 2012
by J. Kelly Beatty
No matter what your level of interest in astronomy, everyone seems to enjoy the brief and sometimes dazzling streaks of light from meteors, sometimes called “shooting stars.” These can occur at any time on any night. On most nights a half dozen of these sporadic (random) meteors appear hourly.

From NPR:

For those of you who need to brush up on your astronomy, Beatty has a reminder about what you’re looking at when you see those streaks of light:

“There’s a comet called Thatcher, which last came through this region of the solar system in 1861, and it’s in an orbit that lasts more than 300 years. As it goes around, it spreads out debris, kind of like dust coming off of a truck, and it spreads around its orbit, and every April we plow through those little dust particles.”

Those bits of dust are traveling fast, Beatty says, hitting the atmosphere at about 30 miles per second. They transfer all that energy to the air molecules around them.

“They get heated up to thousands of degrees, and that’s that super hot air that gives off the light, more than the little particle itself,” he says.

All meteor showers, Beatty says, are the result of Earth crossing the path of various comets.

The next shower to mark on your calendar is on May 5, according to a schedule of 2012 showers from Sky and Telescope.

That shower will be brought to you by the better-known Halley’s Comet, although a full moon accompanies it this year.

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