Perseid Meteor Shower Peaks this Weekend
Prince George, B.C. – It happens every August as Earth passes through the debris of the Swift-Tuttle comet, and that debris disintegrates in flashes of light as is hits Earth’s atmosphere. We have come to know it as the Perseid Meteor shower, because it seems the debris is coming from the constellation Perseus in the north east.
(Perseid meteor shower image courtesy NASA/JPL)
This year, the display is expected to be even more spectacular, thanks to Jupiter. Because of the alignment of the planets, Jupiter’s gravitational pull is tugging that trail of particles, and as Earth moves through that debris path closer to its centre, that means there are more particles that will disintegrate leaving streaks in the night sky.
Blair Stunder is the President of the Royal Astronomical Society in Prince George and says the Perseid Meteor Shower has already started “It started about the past week and a half, but the peak, the real peak we will hit is the 12th. So the 11th, 12th, 13th is the peak of the meteor shower.”
Will you see an amazing show overnight on the 12th? Well, there are a couple other factors that could limit what you see “The biggest problem we’re going to have is that Friday night, the moon sets about 12:30 in the morning and it’s going to be about 75%, so to that point, it’s going to be pretty bright so that will dim out ( the sky) a little bit, but that will be to the south, with the Perseids radiating out of the northeast area of the sky.”
Stunder says generally, the Perseids produce about 100 meteors per hour, but this year, that could climb to about 200 per hour, but not all will be visible. He says even if you can’t see the meteors, if you tune an am radio to a channel that is not dedicated to a station, you might be able to hear the meteors “You will hear little pops and hisses as the meteors ionize the gasses in the sky. And if you tune to a frequency being broadcast from someplace else, possibly Edmonton or Vancouver, you might actually hear, if it’s a really big meteor, you might actually hear a word or beats of a song from that skip off the ionization.”
The Observatory in Prince George ( off the Blackwater Road) will be open at 9:30 Friday night to those who want to have the best chance of seeing the meteor shower. Stunder advises you bring a comfortable reclining lawn chair and something to bundle up in as the night can be very cool, and some hot chocolate, or coffee or tea to sip while you catch Mother Nature’s show. “It’s one of the nicer meteor showers” says Stunder, “first of all it’s a bright one, and then the fact it’s generally warm out, as we get into the Leonids, and Geminids that take place in October, November and December it’s usually colder and not as nice .”
So the only thing needed to ensure you have a good view of the Perseids is a clear night, and right now, Environment Canada is predicting some cloudy periods overnight Friday and a low of ten degrees.
The Observatory is located on Tedford Road, off the Blackwater Road heading to West Lake.