Meteor shower coming to Colorado
August 9, 2008
BOULDER, Colo. ” Shooting stars will light up the Colorado sky shortly after midnight from Sunday through next Wednesday, as the annual Perseid meteor showers reach their zenith.
Coloradans can expect “a pretty good” meteor show because the moon won’t be full and will set shortly after midnight the next several days, said Doug Duncan, director of the Fiske Planetarium at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
In the darkest areas of the mountains and rural Colorado, people will see 50 shooting stars or more each hour, Duncan said.
In more urban areas, where lights act as a pollutant, people will see a few each hour.
Meteor showers happen when the Earth crosses the path of a comet orbiting the sun, Duncan said.
In this case, it is the comet Swift-Tuttle.
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As the comet gets close to the sun, parts of it melt and break off, creating a tail made up of millions of bits of ice and dust.
Those chunks, some as small as a grain of rice, burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere, making streaks of light that humans like to call shooting stars.
“Meteorites are fascinating because they give us a sample of space further out than astronauts have been able to go,” Duncan said. “Every meteorite ever studied dates back to the very beginning of the solar system, 4.5 billion years ago.”
The Perseid meteor shower is named for the Perseus constellation from which the meteors appear to radiate.
Humans have been watching the Perseids for about as long as there have been humans, but the phenomenon was first recorded about 2,000 years ago in the Far East.
They always peak in mid-August.
In Europe they used to be called “The Tears of St. Lawrence.”
For more information, go to the Fiske Planetarium website at http://fiske.colorado.edu.