Meteor Showers

What Do We Know about August Meteor Showers?

When a meteoroid enters Earth’s atmosphere, it generates a flash of light (meteor) that we recognize as a shooting star. This is not an unusual phenomenon. However, we don’t see hundreds of meteors lighting up the sky every day. A meteor shower, which occurs few times per year, reminds us how strangely beautiful the Universe is.
Did you see the meteors during the August meteor shower? The Perseids are certainly one of the most attractive meteor showers we can observe throughout the year. August is the perfect month for admiring ‘shooting stars’: the weather is warm, most people have an ability to go on vacation, and the weather conditions are usually suitable. Even people who are not that interested in astronomy become captivated by the Perseids.
It’s okay to be amazed, but how about learning something more about August meteor showers? Read on; we’ll provide you with a nice base of information that you can use as a conversation starter.

What Causes Shooting Stars?

Meteoroids are really small when compared to the other members of our solar system. When one of these meteoroids plows into our atmosphere, it creates a meteor – a flash of light that moves in the sky. The intense brightness and small size of the meteor makes it appear as a star, hence the term ‘shooting/falling star’.
When a comet comes close to the sun, it produces debris of meteoroids that gravitate around its orbit. When the orbits of our planet and the comet coincide, we witness a meteor shower. The point where the meteoroids appear to originate from is called a radiant. The radiant of the August meteor shower is in the constellation Perseus, which is why this particular event is known as Perseids.
About the Perseids
The Chinese annals in A.D. 36 are the first source of written information about the Perseids. In 1835, the Belgian astronomer Adolphe Quetelet got credit for recognizing the annual appearance of the shower.
This meteor shower is active from the 17th of July to the 24th of August. Almost every year, the peak is expected in the night between 12th and 13th august, after midnight. Since the radiant is in the constellation of Perseus, the meteors are mainly visible in the Northern Hemisphere. Although you’ll have a greater chance to ‘catch’ more meteors if you look closely around the radiant, the distribution of meteors is does not occur according to a pattern. It’s random, so you can see shooting stars all across the sky.

What About Other Meteor Showers?

The Perseids are certainly the most popular phenomenon of this type, but you have other opportunities to observe shooting stars across the year. For example, the Quadrantids (with a radiant point in the constellation Boötes) peak around the 3rd and 4th of January. In April, you can observe the Lyrids. Eta Aquarids peak around the 5th and 6th of May; they are visible in the Northern Hemisphere.
In October, you can observe two meteor showers: the Draconids (peaking around 7th and 8th of October) and the Orionids (21st and 22nd of October). The Leonids occur in mid-November, and December gives you a double opportunity: you can observe the Geminids around the 13th and 14th, and the Ursids around the 22nd and 23rd of the month.

How to Observe Meteor Showers

Before the night of the peak, hope for clear skies. Clouds would make the observation difficult. Pack a blanket, a chair and a bug spray, and abandon the city crowd for a while.
It’s important to get away from artificial lights. Seek for a dark place that gives you access to an open sky. You don’t need any magnification devices to observe the shower. All you need is a comfortable chair and some patience. Choose your piece of sky, observe and enjoy! Don’t focus too hard and don’t concentrate on a single star trying to make it fall. When a meteor shower occurs, you’ll definitely notice it.