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How can you forecast with such accuracy the onset of a meteor shower? Last night was spectacular!

Question submitted by Robert
(100 Mile House, BC)

Thanks for the question Robert. I have heard a lot of similar questions recently in light of the Perseidian meteor shower we have just encountered.

You have to remember that astronomical events are beyond the atmosphere of the earth and hence happen in wide open outer space, and as such are calculable timed events and can be "forecast" with perfect accuracy. The Perseid meteor shower has in fact been observed for about 2000 years, with the earliest information on this meteor shower coming from the Far East. The cloud of dust that we (the Earth) pass through consists of particles ejected by the comet Swift-Tuttle as it travels on its 130-year orbit.

The shower is visible from mid-July each year, with the peak in activity being between August 9 and 14, depending on the particular location of the stream. During the peak, the rate of meteors reaches 60 or more per hour. They can be seen all across the sky, but because of the path of Swift-Tuttle's orbit, Perseids are primarily visible in the northern hemisphere. As with all meteor showers, the rate is greatest in the pre-dawn hours, since the side of the Earth nearest to turning into the sun scoops up more meteors as the Earth moves through space.

For more on astronomically related weather events check out spaceweather.com

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