Chance of (Meteor) Showers

Perseid meteor shower getting under way

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Perseid meteors streak across the sky early August 12, 2008 near Rogers Spring in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada. The meteor display, known as the Perseid shower because it appears to radiate from the constellation Perseus in the northeastern sky, is a result of Earth's orbit passing through debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle. Tuesday morning was considered the peak of the shower, which is visible every August.

    Low clouds may prevent one of astronomy's best high altitude shows of the year.

    The Perseid Meteor shower comes to life over the next few nights, peaking on Thursday with the best viewing for areas away from city light pollution and well away from our nearly non-stop blanket of low clouds that have been filling our nights.

    So where's the best place to catch a glimpse of the meteors? Try staying ahead and above the marine layer. If the low clouds continue to sit near 2,000 feet and lower, unfortunately this will mean areas in the higher hills will have the best viewing opportunities especially further inland. So my top picks for viewing include: Livermore & the Tri-Valley area.  As usual, Mt. Diablo and the Bay Area's higher peaks above the marine layer will provide the benefit of reduced light pollution and cloud-free viewing.

    If not for the low clouds, this year should be excellent viewing since the moon sets in the evening, removing one major light polluter from the skies.

    The flashes of light we see as meteors are actually small sand grain to pebble-sized objects that are left behind from Comet Swift-Tuttle.  As the Earth sweeps around the solar system like a spaceship traveling around the sun, once a year the planet moves through the dusty debris of the comet's path.

    To See or Not To See the Perseids? - Rob Mayeda's Forecast

    [BAY] To See or Not To See the Perseids? - Rob Mayeda's Forecast
    Pop quiz: name sand-grained sized objects travelling at nearly 130,000 mph that hit the Earth's upper atmosphere and you can see them? That's right, its Perseid Meteor shower time again but our weather pattern will make it pretty tough for viewing unless you're living in the foothills of the inland North/East/South Bay locations. Peak viewing should be over the next couple of nights, keep and eye on the northeastern sky after midnight for prime viewing. Again, low clouds spilling inland may limit viewing unless you head well inland or even the Sierra where light pollution from towns/cities will be less of an issue. Now by the weekend we'll see less low clouds inland as high pressure builds and more Summer-like temperatures return to our inland valleys. But for now - things continue staying mild with morning clouds and mist and daytime temps in the 50s-80s.

    These objects may be tiny but hit Earth's upper atmosphere on average according to NASA at nearly 130,000 mph!  That astounding speed reminds us of the F=M x A equation. Small mass but pretty massive acceleration equals a pretty good energy display (or force).  As these particles enter Earth's atmosphere and begin interacting with air molecules, their composition shows up in colors. Here's a guide that shows what the colors represent:

    Iron showing up in blue tones, magnesium in green and sodium (like sodium street lamps) seen in yellowish orange. 

    They're called meteors as long as the debris burns up in the upper atmosphere. They  take on the name meteorite if they actually  physically reach the ground.

    Did you know that nearly 1,000 tons of space dust falls to Earth every year?  Plenty of it will be streaming over the planet in the coming days.

    Rob Mayeda channels his inner Science Officer Spock whenever a meteor shower arrives.