Looking for a little excitement as the summer draws to a close? This year's Perseid meteor shower peaks on Aug. 12-13, and it promises to be one of the best displays of the year. If forecasters are correct, the shower should produce a peak display of at least 80 meteors per hours. A waxing crescent moon will set before the shower becomes active, setting a perfect stage for meteor watching weather permitting, of course! On Thursday, Aug. 12, from 3-4 p.m. EDT, astronomer Bill Cooke from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center will answer your questions about the Perseids and the best ways to view it. Joining the chat is easy. Simply log in to this page on Aug. 12 a few minutes before 3 p.m. EDT.
A chat window will be active at the bottom of the page. Log in, then Bill will start answering your questions at 3:00. The Perseids have been observed for at least 2,000 years and are associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle. Each year in August, the Earth passes through a cloud of the comet's debris. These bits of ice and dust most over 1,000 years old burn up in the Earth's atmosphere to create one of the best meteor showers of the year. The Perseids can be seen all over the sky, but the best viewing opportunities will be across the northern hemisphere. Those with sharp eyes will see that the meteors radiate from the direction of the constellation Perseus.
The head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office, Dr. Bill Cooke specializes in the meteoroid environment and its effects on space vehicles of all sorts. While a graduate student at the University of Florida, he worked on instruments flying onboard balloons, the Space Shuttle, Giotto, and the Long Duration Exposure Facility. After obtaining his PhD, he came to work at Marshall Space Flight Center as a member of the Space Environments Team. When not occupied with meteor observations and shower forecasts, he dabbles as a free- lance author for magazines and is a mentor for the Team America Rocketry Challenge and NASA's Student Launch Initiative rocketry programs.