‘It’s the sky putting on a show:’ Perseid meteor shower returns

Greater Victoria residents can seek out dark sky spots for night sky views

This amazing view of a Perseid meteor was captured by amateur astronomers Stojan Stojanovski, Kristijan Gjoreski and Igor Nastoski of the Ohrid Astronomy Association in Ohrid, Macedonia during the peak of the Perseid meteor shower on Aug. 12-13, 2015. The annual shower returns next week, with peak viewing on the night of Aug. 12. (Photo by Stojan Stojanovski, Kristijan Gjoreski, Igor Nastoski / Ohrid Astronomy Association)

Look to the sky Monday night and you might be treated to the sight of the Swift-Tuttle comet’s spectacular space show.

Every year around August the earth intersects with the comet’s path and grain-sized debris hit Earth’s atmosphere, streaking across the night’s sky, appearing to come from the direction of the Perseus constellation and creating what’s called the Perseid meteor shower.

READ ALSO: Spectacular meteor show expected

“A meteor shower basically is a whole lot of meteorites – what we call shooting stars – little pieces of material from space that falls through the atmosphere and basically burns up,” said University of Victoria astronomer Karun Thanjavur. “A shower happens when you have many of them happening simultaneously and this is because the Earth’s orbit passes through debris that is left behind by a comet.”

This month, that comet is the Swift-Tuttle.

When it orbits the sun, the Swift-Tuttle heats up, releasing debris like ice and dust, which form it’s tail. The debris follows along with the comet’s orbit and intersects with Earth’s every August.

“It’s not as if the comet is there right now, it’s just that at some point in the past it passed that place,” Thanvajur explained. “As the earth passes through that point, there is more debris there that enters the atmosphere and burns up, so that’s why we have this sudden increase in shooting stars or meteorites.”

Thanjavur recommends finding a dark spot to watch, so that even the smaller meteors are visible.

“It only lasts a few seconds as each meteorite burns out. All you need to do is lie back and look at the sky,” he said. “These are events that you don’t need any special equipment for. You don’t need a telescope…all you do is just look up at the sky and if you’re lucky, you’ll see these really bright ones…and then at other times it will be fainter.”

READ ALSO: Hundreds enjoy lunar eclipse through UVic telescopes

READ ALSO: Skygazers spot mysterious flaming object during Sunday’s lunar eclipse

Astronomers predict that the night of Aug. 12 will be the best time to watch the showers. Oak Bay’s Cattle Point is a dark-sky preservation area and a great space for inner-city night sky watching.

“It’s something for everyone to enjoy,” Thanvajur said. “It’s the sky putting on a show.”



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Thief steals donation box, tip jar from Oak Bay businesses

Oak Bay Police Department looking for suspect

Dog dies, Victoria man arrested after incident in Oaklands

Police called to ‘incident between a man and a dog’ Monday afternoon

George Jay parents tired of dog poop left on school’s fields

Parents advocate for stronger fines, more signage in the neighbourhood

Booms go up in Gorge Creek after hydrocarbon spill

The source of the spill is being investigated

VIDEO: Greater Victoria mom shares ‘insane’ experience of viral dinosaur video

Tabitha Cooper filmed her costumed sons meeting their grandma at the Victoria International Airport

Skier dies at Fernie Alpine Resort

It’s the second person to die in a tree well at a ski resort in B.C. in the past week.

Power lines cut as thieves strike Vancouver Island veterinary hospital

‘Thankfully there weren’t any animals or staff in the clinic when this happened’

Vancouver Island home to one of Canada’s largest private skateboard collections

Eric Pinto owns hundreds of boards, spanning multiple decades

ICBC to bring in ranking system for collision, glass repair shops

Change comes after the much-maligned auto insurer has faced criticism for sky-high premiums

Surrey’s ‘Pink Palace’ being used for Stephen King horror shoot

New web series based on King’s The Stand novel

‘It was just so fast’: B.C. teen recalls 150-metre fall down Oregon mountain

Surrey’s Gurbaz Singh broke his leg on Mount Hood on Dec. 30

Vancouver Island Pride weekend returns to Mount Washington Alpine Resort

Building on the success of last year’s family-friendly pride festival on Vancouver… Continue reading

Scarlett Point lighthouse keeper wins a million bucks playing the lottery

“I usually just get a quick pick, so I didn’t expect to win a big prize”

Most Read