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Perseid will scatter showers of meteors


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POSTED: Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Get your wish list ready because August gives us many opportunities to wish upon a shooting star.

“;Shooting stars”; are actually meteors, small particles of space dust that glow as they burn up from friction created by falling through Earth's atmosphere. In the case of the Perseid meteor shower, the meteors are caused by the debris left from a passing comet.

Meteors can be seen anywhere in the sky, but during showers they appear to radiate from a single point. In the case of the Perseid, the meteors appear to originate from the constellation Perseus.

The Perseid meteor shower is much anticipated by sky-watchers because it is usually one of the best meteor showers of the year, with up to 60 meteors an hour. However, this year observers will have to contend with some competing light from the last quarter moon after midnight on the peak of Aug. 11-12. For best viewing, find a location away from lights and with a clear view of the sky. Bring something comfortable to lie on and be prepared to scan the sky for at least 30 minutes.

Constellation spotlight

Often it takes a great deal of imagination to see the pictures represented by constellations, but Scorpius is relatively easy. In Greek mythology it represents a scorpion with a curved tail. In Hawaiian legend it represents Maui's magical fishhook that was used to pull up the bottom of the ocean, thus creating the Hawaiian Islands.

To find Scorpius, look for a large J in the southern part of the sky. As the constellation rises in the southeast after sunset at the beginning of the month, the J will appear upright. As the evening progresses, the J will begin to tip on its side until it sets about 1 a.m. in the southwest. Rising and setting times at the end of the month will be about two hours earlier.

Naked-eye planets

VENUS

If you are an early riser, look out for Venus. Rising at 3:15 a.m. early in the month (3:50 a.m. late in the month), this stunning planet is difficult to miss in the eastern sky. Look for the waning crescent moon in close conjunction with Venus in the early morning sky on Aug. 17.

JUPITER

Blazing throughout August is Zeus' namesake planet, Jupiter. The largest of all planets in our solar system reaches opposition on Aug. 14. At this time it is directly on the opposite side of Earth from the sun, making it appear particularly bright (magnitude -2.9). Jupiter rises just before 8 p.m. and sets just after 7 a.m. at the beginning of August (5:43 p.m. rise and 4:55 a.m. set by the end of the month).

 


Nancy Alima Ali manages the Hokulani Imaginarium at Windward Community College. E-mail your comments or questions to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). For a schedule of Imaginarium offerings, visit aerospace.wcc.hawaii.edu/imaginarium.html.