Earlier this week, the big news was on Mars as the world watched the Curiosity Mars rover speed through that planet’s thin atmosphere at 13,000 mph, before being lowered down to Red Planet's surface.
This weekend, the show is in our very own sky.
The Perseid Meteor Shower 2012 hits its stride this weekend, late Saturday night and early Sunday morning. And what stride it will be: according to NASA, expect up to 100 meteors per hour. As an extra bonus, a waning crescent moon means that moonlight won’t completely overwhelm the meteors as they shoot across the sky.
Where do you plan to go to watch the Perseids? Let us know in the comments.
Like all meteor showers, the Perseid shower is named after the constellation that the meteors appear to originate from, in this case, Perseus.
The shower, of course, has nothing to do with Perseus, but it will look like the meteors are coming from the constellation because the Earth is moving toward it at this time of year.
The incredible sky show is, instead, the result of the Earth’s orbit through a cloud of debris left by the Swift-Tuttle comet, which orbits the sun once every 133 years.
And since the entire Earth is sweeping through the icy, dusty debris, the meteors can be seen all over the sky, though all meteors that are a part of the shower can be traced back to the constellation.
Lucky for us, according to NASA, the best views will be in the northern hemisphere.
Prefer to watch on your own but never before taken the time to sit up all night and watch the awesome spectacle that is a meteor shower? Here are a few tips from EarthSky.org, ranging from the very important ...
Make sure you know which day the shower will peak. Don’t laugh, I’ve been guilty of not following this one because I didn’t …
Find out the time of the shower’s peak in your time zone. For us East Coasters, that’s overnight, Saturday night and early Sunday morning.
... To the non-essential, but interesting:
Don’t take the notion of a radiant point too seriously.
That is, you can look somewhere other than straight at Perseus and still see plenty of meteors.
Find out the shower’s rate, or number of meteors per shower. There’s this metric called the zenithal hourly rate – it’s the number of meteors per hour you might see in the sky. But is that really why you want to watch a meteor shower? To calculate the ZHR?
The best advice, however, may be that which is referred to simply as an old meteor-watcher’s motto:
You might see a lot or you might not see many, but if you stay in the house, you won’t see any.