It’s all about the annual rain of a falling star and why the gorgeous spectacle can be lavish this year.
It’s time again: the Perseids are coming! From mid-July and especially in August is the time of shooting. When observatories host special events, the nighttime weather forecast is the most important and some make a secret list.
What are the epididymis? The Perseids are a stellar shower that peaks in mid-August each year. At this time of year, Earth crosses a comet’s path on its way around the sun. “109P / Swift Tuttle,” as the comet is called, also orbits the Sun, but it takes 133 years to do so. He does not deny his flight without a trace. Over the centuries, 109P/Swift Tuttle has lost particles scattered throughout its orbit. If the Earth passed through this “dirt track” in August, it would encounter particles of debris. They form the meteor shower we call “perseids” (pronounced: perseids).
How does “comet dust” become a shooting star? The dust particles that “109P/Swift Tuttle” has lost along the way are only a few micrometers to a millimeter in size. But it’s also incredibly fast. In addition, our Earth is racing through this dust lane at about 20,000 km/h. When racing dust grains enter our atmosphere, they kick electrons from the oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere—the atmosphere ionizes. If the electrons that have gone out return to the oxygen and nitrogen atoms, the glow will occur. So it’s not the burning dust that causes the scene, it’s the ionosphere. Very similar to the polar lights.
Where can you see Perseids? In principle, Perseids can be seen everywhere. However, the odds are higher in the countryside than in the city, where it is often very bright. A hill with a clear all-round view is particularly recommended. Turn your gaze to the east. Locate the constellation Cassiopeia, known as “Celestial W”. A little below is the constellation Perseus. This is where shooting stars appear to be from, hence their name. But take a look around, too. Shooting stars often enter the atmosphere high above you or in the southwest. As an alternative, there is a visit to an observatory that invites you to the “Perseid Show” each year.
View of the starry sky
When can you see Perseids? Most of the cometary dust hits Earth on the night of August 12 to 13, 2023. Even on the nights before and after it, there are more shooting stars than usual. At the height of the weekend, up to 150 shooting stars can be observed per hour. But this is not realistic in this country. Because even in the mountains, the light pollution is too great to really see all the shooting stars.
How is the weather at night? According to Roman Broglie of the SRF Meteo editorial staff, the omens are good to catch a shooting star. Heavy rainy weather prevails across Switzerland at the weekend, and clouds should be rare. Altocumulus clouds are possible in the mountains, but they are usually not long lasting. Veil clouds can appear in the second half of the night, but they should not obscure the view. The moon is also useful for shooting shooting stars this year: it only rises at two o’clock, it is waning, it is small and not particularly bright.
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