Perseid Meteors Still Showering
So you figure you missed the peak of the Perseids meteor show, an astronomical highlight of August every year. Well, maybe not! Annual observers were a little disappointed last night into this morning, August 11-12, with the slim showing of shooting stars. In our Bitterroot Valley dark skies, I had reports of only a few sightings. I went outside about 3 a.m. and saw three Perseids, but they were alone and minutes apart. No shower there. In fact, the folks over at spaceweather.com are thinking that maybe the peak hasn't yet happened. What?
Let's explain what a meteor shower is. They are little grains of dust left over by a comet or asteroid that has passed over the orbital path of Earth. Each year, the planet passes through that little path and some years there are clumps of dust, and other times the path is a little wider. The Spaceweather group thinks that we may yet hit the dustier part of that path this week. They're hopeful. It is not an exact science, as those of us who meteor-gaze know. Add to that, we may be getting more forest fire smoke today.
Other chances to see meteors? Coming up this year are the Orionids October 20-21, leftover from Halley's Comet. However, there's a full moon that night, which could wash out the dimmer flashes. Then, there's the Leonids on November 16-17, created by the passage of Comet Temple-Tuttle. And, of course, the winter Geminids December 13-14, marking the passage of Comet Swift-Tuttle. While you're out there looking around, don't forget to spot some planets and constellations. This time of year, the temperature is pretty good for some stargazing, especially in the dark skies of Montana.