Look Up! The Perseid Meteor Shower is Here
Skywatchers around the world are gearing up for the famous August Perseid meteor shower, which peaks August 11 through 13 and promises to be the best celestial fireworks show of the year.
The Perseids grace our skies when Earth plows into a stream of fragments—ranging in size from sand grains to boulders—left behind by a comet. These particles slam into the atmosphere at speeds of 100,000 miles (160,000 kilometers) per hour, causing the meteors to burn up in the upper atmosphere, which produces a momentary streak across the overhead skies known as a shooting star.
"As the Earth passes through the dust trail of comets, it encounters debris—some of which can be the size of grapefruit or larger—which [then] can cause fireballs," said Raminder Singh Samra, resident astronomer at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre in Vancouver, British Columbia. "The chances of seeing fireballs always increase when there is a strong meteor shower like this one," he added.
Expectations this year are particularly high for the Perseids because the waxing crescent moon will set early, allowing even the fainter meteors to be seen, explained Samra.
Beauty and Destruction from Above
A Netherlands-based visual artist named Marinus has been running his blog, Head Like an Orange, on Tumblr since October 2011. He takes short excerpts of nature footage and loops them to create mesmerizing moments of life through his gifs like these above.
Spectacular Display of the Northern Lights in Norway
It is easy to see why our ancestors were in awe of this magisterial display. Cowering lest they be sucked into the skies, they imagined that what they were seeing were the spirits of the dead; they saw warriors with burning swords, shoals of shimmering fish, the reflections of departed maidens. They felt it was dangerous to be outside.