I sat up last night and this morning trying to catch a bit of the Perseid Meteor shower that peaked early this morning. The full moon was too bright to see much this year, which was disappointing. The Perseid Meteor shower is known for producing up to 60 meteorites an hour and is always a great one to watch. My first year of reenacting, we had a couple of good events where meteors brightened the sky at night. Lately, even if they did, most of us are asleep long before and miss them.
Meteors are frequently called "falling stars" but they really are just debris left behind by comets. The debris granules can be the size of a sand grain or as large as a boulder and are known as meteoroids until the reach the Earth's atmosphere and heat up. The trail that the meteorite follows through the atmosphere is a meteor and if a meteor doesn't burn up and hits the Earth, intact, it become a meteorite.
Here is a list of the showers over the next few months. Most will not be as spectacular as the Perseid but can still make for a fun night of stargazing.
- 8th-9th, Draconids- Only a few meteors an hour.
- 21st-22nd- Orionids- up to 20 meteors an hour. Known for "fireball" meteors.
- 17th- 18th, Leonids- Best known for it's 33 year cycle. Harriet Tubman saw this shower back in 1833 and thought it was the end of the world. That year the shower was so big it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of meteors shot through the sky an hour. Yearly, about 20 meteors can be seen an hour.
- 13th-14th, Geminids- Normally one of the best ones to catch. The meteors of this shower are known for their bright hues.
**Note: Both of these images are of the Leonids Meteor Shower which gave a spectacular show in 1833 and again in 1866.