NASA Chat: Stay 'Up All Night' to Watch the Perseids!
8 Aug 2011
Looking for a good reason to enjoy an August evening? This year's Perseid meteor shower peaks on the night of Friday, Aug. 12 and into the early morning of Saturday, Aug 13. The Perseids are considered the best meteor shower of the year by many, but with the full moon washing out all but the brightest meteors, rates will probably only be 20-30 per hour at most -- weather permitting. The Perseids rate in the southern hemisphere is quite a bit lower, since the Perseid radiant doesn't climb above the horizon.
Make plans to chat with NASA astronomer Bill Cooke and his team from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center as they answer your questions about the Perseids via live Web chat. Join them on Friday, Aug. 12 at 11 p.m. EDT -- 03:00 UTC GMT -- then make plans to stay "up all night" until 5:00 a.m. EDT on Saturday, Aug. 13.
Joining the chat is easy. Simply return go to this chat page a few minutes before 11 p.m. EDT on Friday, Aug. 12. The chat module will appear at the bottom of the page. Simply type your name to join the chat, then we'll start taking your questions at 11 p.m. EDT.
Watch the Perseids! Live Video/Audio Feed
A live video/audio feed of the Perseid shower will be embedded below on the night of the chat. The camera is mounted at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. During the day, you'll see a dark gray box -- the camera is light-activated and will turn on at dusk each evening. At night you'll see white points, or stars, on a black background.
Before the camera activates, you can still hear the audio of meteors passing through the sky, creating blips, pings and whistles. The meteors themselves don't make sounds, but they ionize the air around them as they burn up. These ionized air molecules reflect radio waves back to our antenna.
More About the Perseids
The Perseids have been observed for at least 2,000 years and are associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the sun once every 133 years. Each year in August, the Earth passes through a cloud of the comet's debris. These bits of ice and dust -- most over 1,000 years old -- burn up in the Earth's atmosphere. The Perseids can be seen all over the sky, but the best viewing opportunities will be across the northern hemisphere. Those with sharp eyes will see that the meteors appear to radiate from the direction of the constellation Perseus.
More About the Chat Experts
Janet Anderson, 256-544-0034
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.