July 28, 2011

Meteor Shower Expected to Light up Night Skies Beginning Friday

by Hannah Kiddoo

Residents will have a front row seat to one of nature's most spectacular shows in the upcoming weeks.

Friday night, the Delta Aquarid meteor shower will become visible to stargazers, marking the start of a double meteor shower that will last into August. As the Delta Aquarid shower concludes, the Perseid meteor shower will begin, offering plenty of time to wish upon shooting stars.

Dr. Matt Beaky, Associate Professor of Physics at Truman State University, explained that the best time for viewing the Delta Aquarid shower will be later in the week due to the slender crescent Moon. "It's definitely visible in Missouri," Beaky said of the celestial event. "The best observing will be in the pre-dawn hours of July 29."

The Perseid shower will be most prominent on August 12, but its visibility will be more limited than the Delta Aquarid shower.

"The Perseid meteor shower is going to take place on the same night as the full moon, which will make it difficult to see as many meteors," he said. Beaky predicted that observers will see between five and ten meteors per hour during the display.

The meteors can be seen with the naked eye in the right conditions. "The best way to view the showers is to find a dark location away from light sources and lie on your back or on a reclining lawn chair facing south," Beaky said. "The greatest meteor activity will be after midnight, with meteor rates increasing near dawn."

Meteors, as explained in a recent article from National Geographic, are caused by Earth's atmosphere slamming into clouds of sand and grain-size particles shed by orbiting comets. As particles enter the atmosphere at speeds in excess of 93,200 miles an hour, they burn up in a fleeting streak of light.

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