‘It’s the sky putting on a show:’ Perseid meteor shower returns

Greater Victoria residents can seek out dark sky spots for night sky views

This amazing view of a Perseid meteor was captured by amateur astronomers Stojan Stojanovski, Kristijan Gjoreski and Igor Nastoski of the Ohrid Astronomy Association in Ohrid, Macedonia during the peak of the Perseid meteor shower on Aug. 12-13, 2015. The annual shower returns next week, with peak viewing on the night of Aug. 12. (Photo by Stojan Stojanovski, Kristijan Gjoreski, Igor Nastoski / Ohrid Astronomy Association)

Look to the sky Monday night and you might be treated to the sight of the Swift-Tuttle comet’s spectacular space show.

Every year around August the earth intersects with the comet’s path and grain-sized debris hit Earth’s atmosphere, streaking across the night’s sky, appearing to come from the direction of the Perseus constellation and creating what’s called the Perseid meteor shower.

READ ALSO: Spectacular meteor show expected

“A meteor shower basically is a whole lot of meteorites – what we call shooting stars – little pieces of material from space that falls through the atmosphere and basically burns up,” said University of Victoria astronomer Karun Thanjavur. “A shower happens when you have many of them happening simultaneously and this is because the Earth’s orbit passes through debris that is left behind by a comet.”

This month, that comet is the Swift-Tuttle.

When it orbits the sun, the Swift-Tuttle heats up, releasing debris like ice and dust, which form it’s tail. The debris follows along with the comet’s orbit and intersects with Earth’s every August.

“It’s not as if the comet is there right now, it’s just that at some point in the past it passed that place,” Thanvajur explained. “As the earth passes through that point, there is more debris there that enters the atmosphere and burns up, so that’s why we have this sudden increase in shooting stars or meteorites.”

Thanjavur recommends finding a dark spot to watch, so that even the smaller meteors are visible.

“It only lasts a few seconds as each meteorite burns out. All you need to do is lie back and look at the sky,” he said. “These are events that you don’t need any special equipment for. You don’t need a telescope…all you do is just look up at the sky and if you’re lucky, you’ll see these really bright ones…and then at other times it will be fainter.”

READ ALSO: Hundreds enjoy lunar eclipse through UVic telescopes

READ ALSO: Skygazers spot mysterious flaming object during Sunday’s lunar eclipse

Astronomers predict that the night of Aug. 12 will be the best time to watch the showers. Oak Bay’s Cattle Point is a dark-sky preservation area and a great space for inner-city night sky watching.

“It’s something for everyone to enjoy,” Thanvajur said. “It’s the sky putting on a show.”



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Police incident in Mount Douglas Park leads to road closure

Officers turning cars away, letting hikers go up trails

PHOTOS: Women’s March through downtown Victoria draws crowds of activists, allies

Attendees of all ages carried instruments, posters with empowering messages

Victoria resident lives well despite dementia

Walter Strauss has developed an interest in music and now takes line dancing classes

New Victoria Conservatory music scholarship recognizes long-time Sidney resident

O. Thomas Webb died in Sidney last year after retiring to the community in 1975

‘Like an ATM’: World’s first biometric opioid-dispensing machine launches in B.C.

First-of-its-kind dispensing machine unveiled in the Downtown Eastside with hopes of curbing overdose deaths

BC Green Party leader visits northern B.C. pipeline protest site

Adam Olsen calls for better relationship between Canada, British Columbia and First Nations

B.C. society calls out conservation officer after dropping off bear cub covered in ice

Ice can be seen in video matted into emaciated bear cub’s fur

Horgan cancels event in northern B.C. due to security concerns, says Fraser Lake mayor

The premier will still be visiting the city, but the location and day will not be made public

PHOTOS: Eastern Newfoundland reeling, search underway for missing man after blizzard

More than 70 centimetres of new snow fell overnight, creating whiteout conditions

Prince Harry, Meghan to give up ‘royal highness’ titles

‘Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family,’ says Queen Elizabeth II

Ice chunk from truck crushes vehicle windshield on Vancouver Island

None injured, but Nanaimo RCMP say there can be fines for accumulations of ice and snow

Calls for dialogue as Coastal GasLink pipeline polarizes some in northern B.C.

Coastal GasLink is building the 670-kilometre pipeline from British Columbia’s northeast to Kitimat on the coast

Intense winds en route to Greater Victoria

Winter storm warning in effect for east and west regions while wind warning to hit south and north

Most Read