Catch A Falling Star

Aug 12, 2016

You can see more meteors than usual in this year's Perseid shower.
Credit M.K. Feeney / Flickr via Creative Commons

The annual Perseids meteor shower looks to be very promising this year.  2016 is being called an outburst year for the celestial event, meaning more meteors than usual will blaze across the sky.  And it’s all thanks to a certain enormous planet.

In a meteor shower, the Earth passes through thick streams of debris left by a comet.  In the case of the Perseid meteor shower, it’s comet Swift-Tuttle.  Tom Willmitch, director of the Illinois State University Planetarium in Normal said that the debris is four and a half million years old and this is its glorious final moments.“You can see a hundred or more potential meteors in an hour.”

You can expect even more than usual for the Perseid meteor shower this year, Willmitch explained.  “This is an outburst year.  About sixteen months ago, the gravity of the planet Jupiter slightly nudged the debris field of Swift-Tuttle.  As a result, Earth will go through an especially dense bit of the stream.”

To get a great view of the meteor shower, you’ve got to get away from street lights, so head out to a rural area.  Look towards the constellation of Perseus, which is near Cassiopeia, and watch the meteors radiate out and across the sky.  Willmitch recommends the Sugar Grove Nature Center Observatory for great sky watching.