Showers predicted tonight – meteors that is

Annual sky show peaks overnight, can be seen with naked eye
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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The sky is falling – or at least a part of a comet that showers the Earth’s atmosphere with debris every year at this time. The annual Perseid meteor shower is giving skywatchers a show this month and the falling comet fragments can be see after dark with the naked eye. Colfax astronomy expert Don Machholz, who has discovered 10 comets, said the public shouldn’t be concerned about rocks dropping from above. Perseid meteors are small bits of rock that slam into the Earth’s upper atmosphere at about 50 miles per second, Machholz said. “They’re very tiny objects – as big as a small pebble,” he said. “The air slows them down and heats them up, producing a streak of light as the meteor crosses the sky. They burn up before reaching the ground.” The Perseid shower will peak tonight and Wednesday morning, with as many as 60 shooting stars an hour. The high point should be 2 a.m. Machholz said a bright moon and some haze in the sky evident Tuesday afternoon could have a negative impact on viewing. The best parts of the sky to observe for meteors are in the north, east and directly overhead. “The shower is best seen by those away from city and neighbors’ lights,” Machholz said. “And this year, it would be a good idea to be shaded from the moon’s light.” Meteors from the shower can also be seen a few nights before and after the Aug. 11 and 12 peak. Machholz said meteors will likely be in the sky on Saturday for one of two star parties this month at Big Bend, a ranger station 30 miles east of Colfax, along Interstate 80. The other star party is Aug. 22. The 90 minute sky tours, which start at 8:30 p.m. take participants through about 25 objects using telescopes owned and operated by Machholz and other astronomers. – Gus Thomson