Shooting stars, planets line up for spectacular celestial event
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — The annual Perseid meteor shower is putting on quite a show this year, with skywatchers reporting 60 shooting stars or more per hour during peak viewing in the middle of the night.
And the show isn’t over yet. The peak of the shower this year was Aug, 12, as the Earth passed through the heart of a stream of debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle, but more shooting stars are expected the next few nights.
“We expect to see meteor rates as high as a hundred per hour,” said Bill Cooke, of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office. “The Perseids always put on a good show.”
According to NASA, Perseids can be seen any time after 10 p.m.. The best time to look, however, is during the dark hours immediately before dawn.
This year’s display is extra-special because of the planets. Jupiter, Venus, and the crescent Moon are gathering together just as the Perseid meteor shower reaches its peak. The alignment occurs in the eastern sky before sunrise on the three mornings of highest meteor activity — and that includes tonight.
The shower will start to wane, but the planets will put on their best show: The 17 percent crescent moon will pass less than 3 degrees from Venus as Jupiter hovers overhead. Sky watchers say there’s nothing prettier than a close encounter between the slender crescent Moon and Venus–nothing, that is, except for the crescent Moon, Venus and a flurry of Perseids: NASA sky map.
And if you want to help NASA count meteors, there is, of course, an app for that.
“We’ve developed an app for Android and iPhones to help amateur sky watchers count meteors in a scientific way and report the results to us,” Cooke said. “It’s called the ‘Meteor Counter’ and it’s available for free in the Android Marketplace and Apple’s App Store.”