Astronomy: Perseids Meteor Showers August 9-14, 2011

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The Perseids is the name of a meteor shower which appears to originate from the constellation Perseus and is associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle.  Meteor showers occur when the Earth encounters the debris fields left behind by visiting comets. As a comet travels through space and near the sun, small particles of rock and metal break off, leaving fragments in their wake like a trail of crumbs.

The annual Perseid meteor shower is most visible this week (August 9-14), with the rate of meteors reaching 60 or more per hour. Friday and Saturday will be the best days for viewing but the glare of the full moon will make it hard to see some of the meteors this year. The meteors can be seen everywhere, but because of Swift-Tuttle’s orbit, Perseids are mainly visible in the northern hemisphere.

The Perseids have been observed for about 2000 years, with the earliest information on this meteor shower coming from the Far East. Some Catholics refer to the Perseids as the “tears of St. Lawrence“, in reference to the anniversary of the saint’s martyrdom on August 10th.

(CBC NewsWikipedia)