Perseid meteor shower outburst could mean 200 meteors per hour

One of the most anticipated meteor showers of the year will be doubly special Thursday as Jupiter bolsters the power of the Perseids.

The annual Perseids meteor shower peaks through early Friday morning, and astronomers don’t expect to see a show of such extravagance again until the Perseids of 2027.

Perseid_Vic_radiants

Track storms on The Palm Beach Post radar map.

That’s because Jupiter’s weighty gravitational pull is influencing this year’s Perseids, tugging at the space particles responsible for the shower so that their orbits moved closer to Earth. So while an average Perseid meteor shower will rain down 60 to 90 meteors per hour, there may be double that amount this year.

“This is one I would watch this year,” said Bill Cooke, lead for NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office in Huntsville, Ala.

The Perseid meteor shower is considered runner-up on the grandness scale only to the Geminid meteor shower in December.

Download The Palm Beach Post WeatherPlus app.

But Cooke said the Perseids are special because they are known for sending showy fireballs streaking through the sky with long trains that may linger for several seconds. Fireballs are brighter than the planet Venus, and a Perseid fireball can light up the ground like a brief spotlight.

“They can produce some very spectacular meteors,” Cooke said about the Perseids. “Some people say they have a yellow color.”

While the Perseid shower radiates from the bold constellation of monster-slayer and mythical Greek hero Perseus, the meteors are actually debris from the comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. The comet orbits the sun in a large cigar-shaped motion, with Earth passing through the comet rubble every year in mid-August.

Perseus was a mythological Greek hero who is known for beheading Medusa and saving Adromeda from the sea monster Cetus.

Perseus was a mythological Greek hero who is known for beheading Medusa and saving Adromeda from the sea monster Cetus.

The comet sheds debris that can range from the size of a pin head to a half-dollar, Cooke said. They slam into Earth’s atmosphere at 132,000 mph.

“With a little luck you’ll see a ‘shooting star’ every minute or so on average,” said Alan MacRobert, senior editor of Sky & Telescope magazine.

Sam Storch, a retired astronomy professor and member of the Astronomical Society of the Palm Beaches, said people shouldn’t be discouraged if they walk out there door and don’t see a meteor right away.

He suggests finding a dark spot away from light pollution and with no obstructions such as tall buildings. He suggests finding a dark spot away from light pollution and with no obstructions such as tall buildings. The moon this year will be waxing gibbous, so you won’t have the light of the full moon to interfere with seeing a meteor.

“The thing about the Perseids, they are reliable,” Storch said. “This is one of the ones to see.”

Whether South Florida’s skies will cooperate is another thing. The National Weather Service in Miami is giving Palm Beach County a 40 percent chance of showers Thursday, dropping to 30 percent Friday morning.

A super moon lights up the night sky over the Boynton Beach Inlet in Boynton Beach, Florida on September 8, 2014. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

A super moon lights up the night sky over the Boynton Beach Inlet in Boynton Beach, Florida on September 8, 2014. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

If Mother Nature does obscure South Florida’s view of the Perseids, at least two groups are planning live broadcasts of the show.

NASA is planning a webcast beginning at 10 p.m. today on its UStream channel. Slooh.com’s broadcast will be live beginning at 8 p.m.

If you haven’t yet, join Kim on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

 

Reader Comments 0

0 comments