Monday, August 06, 2007

Shooting Stars

Some folks around here feel like there's nothing good about August in Alabama. I don't really agree with that view but I can tell you it would be hard to acquit the month if it were on trial.
The Tao Te Ching, which Wayne Dyer discusses at length in his new book, says that you can't have beauty without knowing ugly - light would have no meaning if it were not for dark - that you could not enjoy laughter if you did not have sadness. I guess that it stands to reason that people around here are entitled to know cold weather because it is sure hot around here.
But I would like to point out that there is something good that will be happening later this month and that is a celestial light show. According to news reports:
"This year experts predict an excellent Perseids display, as peak activity will coincide with a new moon, meaning dark skies that allow the meteors to shine."

When to watch
In general, the Earth encounters richer meteoric activity during the second half of the year. And you're more likely to see twice as many meteors per hour in the predawn hours as compared to the evening hours.

Here's why: During the pre-midnight hours, we are on the trailing side of the Earth as it moves through space. Any meteoric particle generally must have an orbital velocity greater than that of the Earth to "catch" us.

After midnight, when we have rotated onto the Earth's leading side, any particle that lies along the planet's orbital path will enter our atmosphere as a meteor.

In these head-on collisions, meteors hit our atmosphere at speeds of 7 to 45 miles per second. Their energy of motion rapidly dissipates in the form of heat, light and ionization, creating short-lived streaks of light popularly referred to as "shooting stars."

Summertime meteors are especially noticeable between mid-July and the third week of August. Between Aug. 3 and 15, there are six different minor displays. When they run (and peak):

— Southern Delta Aquarids, July 12-Aug. 19 (July 28), 15 per hour, faint, medium speed.
— Alpha Capricornid, July 3-Aug. 15 (July 30), 4-5 per hour, slow, bright, a few fireballs.
— Southern Iota Aquarids, July 25-Aug. 15 (Aug. 4), 1 to 2 per hour, faint, medium speed.
— Northern Delta Aquarids, July 15-Aug. 25 (Aug. 8), 1 to 4 per hour, faint, medium speed.
— Kappa Cygnids, Aug. 3-Aug. 25 (Aug. 18), 1 to 3 per hour, slow moving, sometimes brilliant.
— Northern Iota Aquarids, Aug. 11-31 (Aug. 20), 1 to 3 per hour, faint, medium speed.

So, if you enjoy shooting stars blazing across the night sky, pick a date, set your clock and watch the show. I'll be watching.

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