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The Perseids August 12, 2013

Posted by mareserinitatis in physics.
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We’re in the middle of the Perseids meteor shower peak. This means that our giant spaceship, Earth, is currently plowing its way through the debris of comet Swift-Tuttle. Fortunately for us, that means we get a fantastic light show. And if you haven’t seen it yet, you still have time. Tonight is the last night of the peak, but it will slowly dwindle for a few days after that.

We make a point to take the kids out every year to watch. Because, hey, it’s summer in North Dakota! (I would like to watch the Orionids in November, but it is awfully hard to convince myself it’s worth braving the frigid air.) Usually, we stay up and watch (well, except younger son, who has been known to fall asleep on my lap once its about half an hour past his normal bedtime) but this year, there is a waning crescent moon, which means it is up at sunset and then sets itself after midnight. We decided to instead go out to watch at 4 a.m. You know this is pretty exciting stuff when even a teenager gets up quickly and without complaint.

We only got about an hour of viewing before the sun started washing things out, but we easily saw a meteor a minute. This is by far the best shower I’ve seen in years.

I understand that the moon will be much more of a nuisance during next year’s shower, so if you have the chance, it’s worth trying to catch it this year.

And now, I’m going back to bed.

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