xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Star Points: Summer's best meteor shower

The Carroll County 4-H & Future Farmers of America Fair in Westminster is over now. From the tractor pulls and combine demolition derby to funnel cakes and ice cream, the fair was quite an attraction for thousands of people who attended.
Between the sawdust track where pigs and ducks held daily races and the Clydesdale horse tent, there stood a booth run by members of the Westminster Astronomical Society. Outside day and night, weather permitting, was an array of telescopes through which they shared views of heavenly celestial bodies with passersby.
During the day, telescopes equipped with "white light" filters allowed fair-goers to safely view the sun's otherwise blindingly brilliant photosphere and to see sunspots on the bespeckled face of old Sol, our nearest star.
Other telescopes equipped with "hydrogen alpha" filters literally took observers to a higher level. These telescopes revealed features in the upper layers in the sun's chromosphere. Storms of shooting hydrogen gas, known as prominences, were visible around the sun's edge where it streamed into space. They resembled feathers or little trees and sometimes became detached, floating alongside of the sun.
Although they may look small, solar pominences are tens of thousands of miles across and therefore dwarf our own planet.
In the evening, fair-goers were treated to the sights of this season's planets. Brilliant Venus appeared in the deepening evening twilight like burning magnesium before setting into the trees. Saturn, with its beautiful set of rings, was a genuine crowd-pleaser as it shyly darted from behind one tree to another.
The big news for this month is the Perseid meteor shower. This month's shower is expected to peak on the afternoon of August 12. For us it means we split the difference between the nights of August 11-12 and 12-13. Of course, a few shower members will be visible in the days leading up to and following the event.
This year is special because there will be no interference from the glare of moonlight. This means that fainter shower members, normally washed out by a brightly shining moon, may also be visible from a dark country site.
The Perseids consist of dust particles or "meteoroids" given off by the comet known as 109P/Swift-Tuttle. Streams of meteoroids from previous passes of the comet orbiting the sun are encountered by the earth this time of year during its annual trip around the sun. The comet itself won't be making a visit for another 109 years.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement