August 10, 2012 1:22 pm
Between midnight and dawn on any night this coming weekend, look up, turn to the northeast, and admire the annual show of the Perseid meteor shower. (Times vary for those outside the U.S.) Depending where you live and how far you can get away from glaring city lights, you may be able to see up to 100 meteors each hour. Though the Perseids can be seen throughout August, this weekend is supposed to be the best time to catch the display. According to EarthSky,
The earliest historical account of Perseid activity comes from a Chinese record in 36AD, where it was said that “more than 100 meteors flew in the morning.” Numerous references to the August Perseids appear in Chinese, Japanese and Korean records throughout the 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th centuries. Meanwhile, according to ancient western skylore, the Perseid shower commemorates the time when the god Zeus visited the mortal maiden Danae in the form of a shower of gold. Zeus and Danae became the parents of Perseus the Hero – from whose constellation the Perseid meteors radiate.
For the particularly keen, you’ll want to look for the constellation Perseus. This is the meteor shower’s “radiant point,” the source from which they all appear to stream. Here’s a guide to finding it. A helpful tool for finding the best view is Google’s free Sky Map app for Android phones, which lets you punch in “Perseus” or “Perseids” and then points you exactly where you need to look.
More on Smithsonian.com:
Sign up for our free email newsletter and receive the best stories from Smithsonian.com each week.
No Comments »
No comments yet.