An increase in the number of meteors at a particular time of year is called a meteor shower. Comets shed the debris that becomes most meteor showers. As comets orbit the Sun, they shed an icy, dusty debris stream along the comet’s orbit. If Earth travels through this stream, we will see a meteor shower. Depending on where Earth and the stream meet, meteors appear to fall from a particular place in the sky, maybe within the neighborhood of a constellation.
Meteor showers are named by the constellation from which meteors appear to fall, a spot in the sky astronomers call the radiant. For instance, the radiant for the Leonid meteor shower is located in the constellation Leo. The Perseid meteor shower is so named because meteors appear to fall from a point in the constellation Perseus. Perseid meteors will appear to “rain” into the atmosphere from the constellation Perseus, which rises in the northeast around 11 p.m. in mid-August.
Tonight and tomorrow night the Perseid meteor shower will peak. This event is often the best of the year, peaking at about 60 meteors per hour … typically bright, fast-moving and frequently leaving a persistent train behind. For the best view, escape the city lights. After you’ve escaped the city glow, find a dark, secluded spot where oncoming car headlights will not periodically ruin your sensitive night vision. Look for state or city parks or other safe, dark sites.
Once you have settled at your observing spot, lie back or position yourself so the horizon appears at the edge of your peripheral vision, with the stars and sky filling your field of view. Meteors will instantly grab your attention as they streak by.
You might also want to read SD title, Pieces of Another World. Pieces of Another World is the story of a father and child’s nighttime excursion to watch a meteor shower. The author keeps the readers in suspense by telling the story through the eyes of the child, who has no idea where they are going in the middle of the night – or why. The wonderful, vivid descriptions make the readers feel as though they too, are in the middle of the field watching the tiny bits of other, distant worlds, blazing into our own. The “For Creative Minds” section is loaded with information about meteors (also known as “shooting stars” or “falling stars”) and meteor showers. Learn the difference between meteors, meteoroids, meteorites, asteroids and comets!
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