Every month there is a focus on an astronomical phenomenon by Sydney City Skywatchers' Secretary, Elizabeth Cocking. This month Elizabeth has researched meteor showers. In February meteor scientist and Senior Research Manager, Ross Pogson,gave an inspiring talk to Skywatcher members about meteorites and their significance in understanding our solar system.
Every so often the Earth passes through the debris left by an orbiting comet to produce of dazzling display of “”fireworks”” in the night sky.
Most meteor showers are caused when the Earth moves through the debris stream of an orbiting comet, however two known meteor showers - the Quadrantids and the Geminids - are the result of debris from asteroids rather than comets. The earliest known records of a meteor shower are those of the of the Perseids found in Chinese records in 36 AD. The image above is of the Perseid meteor
shower by NASA.
The best time to view a meteor shower is in the early hours of the morning with a dark and moonless sky. The meteors enter the atmosphere at angles, but when viewed from Earth they appear to come from the same point referred to as the “radiant,” so called because the meteor shower looks like it radiates from one point in the sky.
The most intense meteor showers are known as “meteor outbursts and meteor storms,” and can produce as many as 1,000 or more meteors in an hour.
Meteor showers are named after the constellation that they occur in. For example, The Leonids meteor shower is named after the constellation Leo, the Perseids is named after the constellation Perseus, and the Orionides meteor shower is named after the constellation Orion.
When observing a meteor shower from the southern hemisphere the meteors appear to travel in an upward direction.