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Monday, August 11, 2008


Perseid meteor shower set to dazzle

  • David Shiga
A Perseid meteor streaks through auroras above Colorado in 2000 (Image: Jimmy Westlake)
A Perseid meteor streaks through auroras above Colorado in 2000 (Image: Jimmy Westlake)
The Perseids appear to originate from the constellation Perseus (Illustration: NASA)
The Perseids appear to originate from the constellation Perseus (Illustration: NASA)

Tuesday morning will provide one of the year's best opportunities to see some "shooting stars", with the peak of the annual Perseid meteor display.

Meteors are bits of dust or rock that plunge into Earth's atmosphere at high speed, producing a glowing trail when they excite gas particles. On any clear night, a handful of meteors can be seen per hour, but that rises to dozens per hour during a meteor shower.

The Perseid meteor shower is one of the best annual displays and is best seen from the northern hemisphere.

From a dark site, far from city lights, viewers should be able to catch around 60 meteors per hour at the peak. For observers at most locations, the peak will arrive in the early morning hours on Tuesday, local time, before dawn breaks.

Smaller numbers of meteors will be visible on Monday evening, since light from a nearly full Moon will wash out fainter meteors. The number of meteors visible will increase when the Moon sets at around 0130 local time on Tuesday for observers at mid-northern latitudes.

The meteors will appear all over the sky, so the best strategy is to lie down and stare at as large a patch of sky as possible – away from the Moon, if it is still up. Tracing the paths of the meteors backwards will lead to a point in the constellation Perseus, which gives the yearly display its name (scroll down for image).

Perseid meteors are bits of debris shed by comet Swift-Tuttle, which takes 133 years to orbit the Sun and last passed through the inner solar system in 1992.

Its fragments hit the atmosphere at an average speed of 59 kilometres per second, causing most to disintegrate far above Earth, at altitudes of 80 to 120 kilometres – around the edge of space at 100 km.

A typical meteor barrelling through the thin atmosphere at this height is just the size of a grain of sand or a small pebble. But it creates a column of glowing gas tens of kilometres long and hundreds of metres wide.

Earth accumulates an estimated 1000 to 10,000 tonnes of material from meteorites each day.

Comets and Asteroids – Learn more in our special report.


More Monsanto Tidbits

Refer back to this post . Read that and then compare the information to these two news summaries from Yahoo! It's enough to make a poor humble consumer smile.

Monsanto looking to sell bovine hormone business
The Ithaca Journal Fri, 08 Aug 2008 2:27 AM PDT
Fifteen years after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved recombinant bovine growth hormone for use in dairy production, Monsanto has decided it may not be such a cash cow.

Monsanto puts bovine growth hormone out to pasture [60-Second Science Blog]
Scientific American Thu, 07 Aug 2008 12:53 PM PDT
After years of legal wrangling over the proper labeling of milk from cows treated with its artificial hormone, Monsanto wants to sell its milk business--specifically, POSILAC, the bovine growth hormone given to cows to boost their production of milk. [More]

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I live on the Pacific slopes of the Talamanca mountain range in southern Costa Rica. My adult children live in the United States. I have a Masters Degree in Gerontology but have worked as a migrant laborer, chicken egg collector, radio broadcaster, secretary, social worker, research director, bureaucrat, writer, editor, political organizer, publicist, telephone operator, and more. My hobby of photography has garnered some awards.

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