The ultimate celestial duo?
If you’re already on a solar eclipse road-tip, prepare for a celestial warm-up when 100s of shooting stars and dozens of fireballs fall out of the sky this weekend.
One of nature’s most remarkable shows this year takes places on the nights of August 12 and August 13, with the nights either side also good for lots of shooting stars.
A well-known vacation favourite of campers and RV fans, the Perseids is the result of Earth’s orbit of the Sun hurtling through a stack of debris left over from Comet Swift-Tuttle, which passed through the solar system most recently in 1992 on its 133-year orbit of the Sun.
By lucky chance, the Perseids meteor shower ‘peaks’ on August 12-13 in 2017, barely a week before the eclipse. And with up to 100 shooting stars an hour if you stay up past midnight, it could be hard to resist for astronomically-aware eclipse-chasers.
Absolutely anyone can see this display of shooting stars, wherever they are in the northern hemisphere, but you need one thing: darkness. Complete, total, utter darkness.
Find that and you will then be rewarded with up to 100 shooting stars an hour. It’s a great chance to glimpse an ‘Earth-grazer’ fireball – an insanely bright meteor that briefly enters Earth’s atmosphere, then leaves again.
However, you will have to stay up late. On August 12 and 13, 2017 the Moon sets at around midnight and 01:00am, respectively. This hour or so is the best time of the year to see shooting stars, and those who stay up until this time will be rewarded with inky black skies and streaking meteor-trails.
Picture credit: NASA