Spectacular Cometary Dust

Posted in Comets

Perseid Meteor Shower

At the moment one has a good chance to see a shooting star at night – in particular, the Perseid meteor storm. The reason for this lies in a trail of cometary debris that the Earth is currently travelling through. This debris was left behind by the comet Swift-Tuttle on one of its previous 133-year orbits around the sun.  There are several clumps of usch debris along the comets orbit, and when the Earth passes through such a clump we experience more meteors than usual. (The last time the comet itself approached Earth was in 1992 and it will return next in 2126).  The meteors from the debris hit the Earth’s atmosphere at a stunning speed of 59 km/s and burn up about 80 km miles above the Earth’s surface leaving a glowing path behind. The display will be most intense on the 11th August, with upto 200 meteors per hour expected to be visible in dark skies.

The comet Swift-Tuttle is 26 km in diameter, about ten times bigger than 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.

Find out where to look here.

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