Shooting stars to hit Nigerian skies from July 17 to August 24
Last episode was December 1992, next for July 2126
Nigerians, all astronomy enthusiasts and stargazers are in for a six weeks spectacle as the annual meteor shower, Perseids, that peaks around mid-August births this month after 25 years. It is regarded as one of the brightest and most visible meteor showers.
The window for this year’s meteor shower is from July 17 to August 24. Stargazers stand a chance of seeing the shower at any point in this window, however the peak will occur around August 11, 12 and 13.
The last time it was closest to the sun was in December 1992. It will be back again in July 2126.
According to AstronomyToday.com, meteors, or shooting stars as they are more commonly known, are the streaks of light produced when a meteoroid burns up in the Earth’s atmosphere. It looks like a star falling towards us as it momentarily flashes above us. The meteoroids, which produce the meteors, are dust and rocks in space.
Comets and asteroids are the two main sources. Upon coming close to the Sun, comets lose dust and fragments while asteroids lose fragments if they collide together. As the Earth moves along its orbital path, meteoroids hit the upper atmosphere and hurtle towards Earth’s surface. Once in the atmosphere, friction between the meteoroid and air molecules often produces the brief trail of light that we call a meteor.
To Space.com, a meteor shower occurs when Earth passes through the debris stream occupying the orbit of a comet, in this case comet Swift-Tuttle.
According to a report first published in The Telegraph UK, perspective makes meteor showers appear to emanate from a single point in the sky known as the shower radiant. A typical meteor results from a particle the size of a grain of sand vapourising in Earth’s atmosphere when it enters at 134,000mph.
The best time to take a look at the sky will be from about 1am BST in the Northern Hemisphere until the onset of dawn twilight.
Space.com says the moon, which will be three-quarters full at the time of the peak, will rise around 11pm meaning the spectacle will be trickier to see this year. However, sky-watchers should still be able to see the shower, despite the moon’s glare.
Peak rates of 150-200 meteors per hour were recorded in 2016, but typical rates are about 80 meteors an hour streaking across the night sky, each leaving a trail.
How can I see it? Space.com noted: “Choose a dark location away from stray lights and give yourself at least 20 minutes in total darkness to properly dark adapt.
“Look at a height approximately two-thirds up the sky in any direction. If you want a recommendation, east through south offers some great background constellations in the early hours during August.
“Look for the shower’s “radiant” from the north-east corner of Perseus.
“The wonderfully named Comet Swift-Tuttle, the parents of the Persied meteor shower, is the largest object known to repeatedly pass Earth (it is 16 miles wide).”
According to earthsky.org, it orbits the sun ever 133 years and each time it passes through the inner solar system, it warms up releasing fresh comet material into its orbital stream.