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Perseid meteor showers heading our way
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  • PARIS (AFP) Aug 04, 2005
    Astronomers can expect a good display by the annual Perseid meteor shower next week, web logs and specialist media said on Thursday.

    The shower will peak next Thursday and Friday nights, with the prospect of seeing a meteor every minute on average, provided the sky is clear and the observer is in a dark area, they said.

    Skywatchers in temperate northern latitudes are best placed to see the spectacle.

    The Perseids occur when Earth runs into a trail of dust and pebbles deposited by the comet Swift-Tuttle in its 130-year orbit around the Sun.

    This debris strikes the upper atmosphere at around 60 kilometers (37 miles) per second, a speed that causes the matter to burn up into a white-hot streaks. Bigger items are immolated as fireballs.

    Meteor showers vary from year to year, depending on the amount of rubble left in a cometary flyby.

    In the early 1990s, there were several spectacular Perseid shows, with bursts of several hundred meteors per hour, when Earth ran into a trail deposited by Swift-Tuttle in 1862.

    This year's show will not be as good, but since the Moon will be only a quarter full, the viewing will not be hampered by moonlight, the US publication Sky & Telescope (SkyandTelescope.com) says.

    Meteors are named after the constellation from which they seem to appear -- in this case, Perseus, a northern constellation lying east of Cassiopeia and north of Taurus.

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