They’re the remnants of a comet and can travel at 216,000 kilometers per hour: how to spot falling stars.
BERLIN – Midsummer is the time for the stars: As every year in August, the legendary Persian Squadron promises countless shooting stars these days, which can be seen without any visual aid. The peak of the meteor shower is expected around August 12, but the view of the night sky is already worthwhile – if the currently rainy summer weather in our latitudes allows it.
See Perseids: For Night Owls and Early Rising
When the skies are clear, many of these summer meteors can be seen in the night sky even on the nights before Bershade’s maximum on Thursday next week. Night owls or early risers should be able to catch a glimpse of one of the summer’s fallen stars or the other when there are gaps in the clouds. According to ancient custom, some observers would then feel called to give the fallen star, which burns in seconds, a secret wish to take with him.
Meteors: Dozens of meteors per hour
At the time of maximum Perseid, up to a hundred bright stars per hour could perfectly shine in the sky – but only under unusually good observational conditions. Inexperienced observers are unlikely to see so many meteors. The best time to observe during maximum perseid in the second half of the next week is between late evening and early morning.
Stargazing: A Path to the Constellation of Perseus
August meteors have long had a fixed date in the annual astrological calendar for fans of falling stars: Perseids are the only large meteor showers of summer and one of the most productive of all. Summer stars take their name from the constellation Perseus. There is the obvious starting point for Perseid meteorites, the so-called radians.
Meteor showers: Smell the dust of comets
However, in truth, the falling stars come from the immediate vicinity of Earth: in its orbit around the Sun, our planet crosses a cloud of fine particles every year between mid-July and the end of August, which was comet 109P/Swift – leaving the shuttle behind in its orbit around our central star.
Perseids: Moves at 216000
When Earth hits this comet’s cosmic dust path, which returns about every 133 years, comet dust particles, often the size of a pinhead, penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere at a speed of 60 kilometers per second – an incredible speed of 216,000 kilometers per hour. At an altitude of 80 to one hundred kilometers, small dust particles then create a light phenomenon called a shooting star.
A swarm of meteors: as in heavy snow
An observer navigating through space with a swarm of meteors is presented in the same image as a motorist driving in shovels of thick snow: looking through the windshield, it seems as if all the snowflakes come from a common starting point. In truth, only perspective plays a trick—just as with the Perseids, whose traces of light can extend into the constellation of Perseus from the viewpoint of the Earth observer.
Sky Scene: Fantastic Fireballs
Larger meteors shine like bright stars and planets when they enter the atmosphere. The so-called fireballs are brighter, but they are also rare. These amazing meteors often leave a colorful glowing tail behind.
Star Scene: Good all-round vision is important
Sky-gazers organizers do not need special equipment to monitor the Perseids – a deck chair or sleeping mat and good panoramic view is enough. Binoculars or even telescopes are a hindrance when tracking meteors that burn in seconds, because the field of view of such instruments is too small for agile sky cruisers.
Shooting mare: Use a wide angle and a tripod
The best observation possibilities are offered by a place away from cities flooded with artificial light. If you want to photograph the meteor shower, you should use a wide angle lens, mount the camera on a tripod and choose a long exposure.
Where did the name “Percides” come from? Fiery tears
By the way, the August meteors are known as Laurenti’s tears. The name reminds us of Saint Lawrence who died martyred on August 10, 258 under the Roman Emperor Valerian. Since then, legend has it that it rained fiery tears that day. (AFP/frs)
Headline list image: © John Baker / Imago
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