By SCOTT ELNES
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
I’ve been hearing people say it since the year began:
“First the pandemic, then the protests, what’s next? A comet hitting the earth?”
Well, kind of . . .
You see, just like our friend Comet Neowise that just passed close enough to earth to get a good look recently, the comet Swift-Tuttle last passed by earth in 1992 on its 133-year journey around the sun.
Prior to 1992, scientists thought that Comet Swift Tuttle may actually be on a trajectory course to collide with earth in the fairly near future. But thanks to that sighting, right around as grunge was hitting the planet, we were able to calculate that Comet Swift Tuttle would not. But rather will continue to leave us with a yearly light show, called the Perseid Meteor Showers for millennia to come.
So, what exactly is a meteor shower? And why do we call it the Perseid shower?
Meteor showers come from debris left behind by a comet, in this case, the Swift Tuttle, as the elliptical orbit of the earth crosses the debris field left behind by the comet. The small rocks and chunk of ice hit our atmosphere and vaporize, leaving us with a brilliant light show.
The reason it’s called the Perseid shower is because meteor showers appear to come from the same part of the sky, in this case, just off to the upper right of the constellation known as Perseus.
So, what does it take to view these cosmic visitors? The good news is, all you need are a set of working eyes and a giant vat of coffee.
That’s because this year the peak viewing time will be at 2 a.m. Wednesday. But post-sunset and pre-dawn hours are also great times to view. Just give your eyes about thirty minutes to adjust to the darkness and keep your eyes peeled to the east.
Every year, nearly 50 tons of debris falls on earth. But because of our atmosphere, these pieces of debris interact with air molecules causing them to heat up and create mind-blowing visuals that many of us know and wish upon, shooting stars.
Only you won’t need to wish upon a shooting star to see a meteor shower if you miss this one. Because we get around 30 meteor showers every year and since they are timed with earth’s orbit are easy to predict.