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The Perseids are coming

Tonight sees the peak of the Perseid meteor shower, the visible effect of the Earth passing through the debris left behind when comet Swift-Tuttle passed through the inner solar system. The Society for Popular Astronomy (SPA) have a meteor section that observe these showers and record what they see for analysis. The best way to observe the shower is to find somewhere dark and look towards the East at an elevation of about 45 degrees, if you look directly towards the radiant (the point from which all the meteors appear from) then you will not see quite as impressive a show. If you do observe the shower you can help scientists by recording what you see. The SPA have a handy form for this purpose.

Another way to observe meteor showers is to listen to them on your radio. A meteor is just a little bit of dirt flying through the atmosphere. As these particles rush through the air they rub against molecules in the atmosphere and the friction causes them to heat up. The heat ionises atoms, separating the electons from the nuclei leaving an ionised trail behind. As the electrons recombine with the nuclei they emit a photon of light, this is what we see from the gound as a meteor trail. This ionised trail has another effect: it reflects radio waves. If you tune your radio to an empty part of the spectrum, somewhere where there is no station and all you can hear is static, then you may hear brief snatches of foreign radio transmissions as the signals bounce off these trails and get reflected back to the ground. Another way to do this is with radar.

Currently it is raining here in Manchester, but hopefully the weather will be better this evening as I am off to deepest darkest Yorkshire with some members of Macclesfield Astronomical Society.

Posted by Megan on Friday 12th Aug 2005 (01:11 UTC) | Add a comment | Permalink


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Last updated: Sunday, 22-Jun-2014 23:32:13 BST