One of my favorite memories of growing up on a farm in Wisconsin was the view of the night sky. We could see so many stars away from city lights. Every so often we would get lucky enough to see a shooting star.
Now we live close to town and it's harder to see what's up there after dark. Sightings of shooting stars are practically nonexistent.
That is, until the annual Perseid meteor shower occurs in August! The Perseids can be seen every year from mid-July through mid- to late-August, but this year the meteor shows is expected to peak around August 11-12.
Fun Facts You Should Know
If you have kids like my daughter, they'll want to know exactly what they're looking at and will have a lot of questions. Impress your kids with your vast knowledge of the universe with these five fun facts from Astronomy.Com:
- The Perseids are caused by a giant comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, which left a wide stream of debris in its wake. Earth is passing through that debris. But don't worry: they're small pieces, each about the size of a grain of sand, so they won't hurt us.
- Peak action of the Perseids takes place because we pass through the densest portion of the debris.
- We see the "shooting stars" (that aren't really stars) when the tiny pieces of dirt and dust hit our atmosphere at a high speed and make a flash of light when they burn up.
- During most nights of the Perseids you might be lucky enough to see 20 meteors an hour, but during the peak nights, you can expect to see 50-100 per hour!
- It's called the Perseid meteor shower because all of the meteors look like they are coming from the constellation Perseus.
How to See the Free Show
Where do you look for these little falling balls of light? Just look up! There's not one particular direction to look. The best part is, there is no special equipment needed to see the show. In fact, it's easier to view it with your naked eye than through the limited lens of a telescope or binoculars.
The best way to view the Perseids is when the sky is clear and dark and you're away from a lot of light, so city dwellers, you'll want to head out of town! Grab a blanket (lying down gives you the widest view of the sky) and snacks, then find a safe place to watch and have a blast making memories with your kids.
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