PORTLAND -- Each year, our planet passes through debris paths left by comets hurling past the Sun. The results of these intersections are called meteor showers, highlighted by tiny particles that burn up in Earth's atmosphere.
What we see are bright streaks across the night sky, often called shooting stars. Traveling at thousands of miles an hour, meteoroids quickly ignite as they enter Earth's atmosphere 30 to 80 miles above the ground.
Most of the small bits of interplanetary rock are destroyed, the rare few that survive and crash into the surface of the Earth are called meteorites.
The most well-known meteor shower is the Perseid meteor shower, which takes place in August. Peak viewing will be August 12 and 13. The meteor shower occurs each year when our planet enters the debris path left by the comet Swift-Tuttle during its last trip past the Sun in December of 1992.
As comets orbit the Sun, they shed an icy, dusty debris stream. If skies are clear, experts say 50 to 60 meteors per hour will be visible in dark rural areas. Brighter, city lights may offer a view of 10 to 15 meteors per hour.
For a viewing treat, consider attending a Star Party at Rooster Rock or Stub Stewart Start Park, this Monday night at 9:00 p.m. Both events are sponsored by OMSI and the Rose City Astronomers Club. Numerous telescopes will be set up for your free viewing pleasure.
(The above information is courtesy of Jim Todd, OMSI Director of Space Science Education.)
Meteorologist Rod Hill