Showering once a year? It works for the Perseid cloud!
Each year in mid-August, a stream of debris ejected by the Swift-Tuttle comet, called the Perseid cloud, becomes visible to stargazers — as a meteor shower.
These “shooting stars” are actually streaks of light that occur when tiny dust particles in the comet’s debris trail collide with and are vaporized by the Earth’s atmosphere.
The Perseid Meteor Shower has been observed for approximately 2,000 years and was first recorded by stargazers in the Far East.
It’s best to get out of the city and away from light pollution to view the shower, so the George Observatory at Brazos Bend State Park is hosting a viewing party this Saturday, August 11. Meteors may become visible around 10 p.m., but will grow more frequent as dawn approaches.
Says HMNS Astronomer James Wooten: “You will see more meteors in pre-dawn hours than right after dusk. This is because the Earth is running into the stream of meteors rather than the other way around. As a result, the leading edge of the Earth — the side going from night to day — encounters the meteors. Meteors will seem to radiate from a constellation called Perseus (hence the name “Perseids”). In August, Perseus rises in the northeast at dusk and is high in the north at dawn. Thus, meteors will seem to radiate from the northeast.”
The George will stay open until 2 a.m. August 12 to accommodate people who want to view the full spectacle of this stunning celestial shower.
Normal park entrance fees ($7 per person; free for children 12 and younger) apply. Tickets for the Gueymard Telescope are $5 and go on sale at 5 p.m. Tickets to view the night sky through our 11-inch refractor and other large domes will be available for $5 from 9 p.m. until midnight.
As always, personal telescopes are welcome! The shower is also visible to the naked eye. Lawn chairs, bug spray, snacks and blankets are encouraged.