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National meteor watch day: Observing the skies

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On June 30, National Meteor Watch Day, people across America look up, hoping to see streaks of light flashing across the nighttime sky. Also called “falling stars” or “shooting stars,” meteors are fragments formed by meteoroids or cosmic rock and debris that disintegrate, as they fall into Earth’s atmosphere. The majority of the meteoroids that cause meteors are only the size of a pebble.

Actually, millions of meteors occur each day, indicating that meteors can be seen anytime we see the stars. Jonathan Breitzer, director of the Planetarium at Fayetteville State University, comments,

“They say that meteors are best seen after midnight, when the Earth is facing “forward” in its orbit. But you can still see them early in the evening as well. I’ve found that the best way to see meteors is not to look for them! Look for the stars, and if a meteor happens to appear, you can’t help but notice it.”

Although observers may be able to see a meteor on just about any night of the year, the best time to see such a brilliant display is during a meteor shower, which occurs at various times each year. Earth’s Sky describes meteor showers or “meteor streams” as icy particles in space that come from comets moving in orbit around the sun. When these comets enter Earth’s atmosphere, they form fragile icy bodies that litter their orbits with debris that vaporizes as the particles or meteors fall.”

Meteor showers are named for the constellation that coincides with this region in the sky, a spot known as the radiant. The Perseid meteor shower, for example, is so named because meteors appear to fall from a point in the constellation Perseus, appearing in mid-August. Meteorwatch.org provides a listing of meteor shower dates, times, and viewing guide. Earth’s Sky also offers “10 Top Tips for Meteor-watchers.”

Whether you are observing the skies on National Meteor Watch Day or at other times of the year during meteor showers or at any other time, the heavens provide an excellent opportunity to reflect on the glory of God through the vastness of time and space in the cosmos.

For more information regarding the Perseid meteor shower, check out Perseid-meteor-shower-to-peak-on-aug-11-and-12-thinking-about-past-and-future.

Another article discusses the Leonid Meteor Showers.

Check out the accompanying video for "Tips on How to Watch a Meteor Shower."

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