With the Perseid meteor shower peaking tonight, you might need some small talk to fill those moments between making wishes, so here are ten fun facts about the Perseid meteor shower courtesy of Robert Roy Britt at Space.com.
Be sure to respect the wishes of those looking for a bit of peace and quiet under the stars, though, or you might lose your ride out of that idyllic spot in the middle of nowhere.
Perseids Aren’t Slowpokes
Perseid meteoroids (which is what they’re called while in space) are fast. They enter Earth’s atmosphere (and are then called meteors) at roughly 133,200 mph (60 kilometers per second) relative to the planet. Most are the size of sand grains; a few are as big as peas or marbles. Almost none hit the ground, but if one does, it’s called a meteorite.
Comet Swift-Tuttle, whose debris creates the Perseids, is the largest object known to make repeated passes near Earth. Its nucleus is about 6 miles (9.7 kilometers) across, roughly equal to the object that wiped out the dinosaurs.
Back in the early 1990s, astronomer Brian Marsden calculated that Swift-Tuttle might actually hit Earth on a future pass. More observations quickly eliminated all possibility of a collision. Marsden found, however, that the comet and Earth might experience a cosmic near miss (about a million miles) in 3044.
Full story at Space.com.
A great night for skywatching.
Photo credit: Tamas LadanyiAuthor on Google+