By Martin Leduc
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They can be red, blue or green. They spin at a speed approaching the 58km/second. These are the shooting stars of the Perseids, a phenomenon that only happens once a year. This year it started on July 17 and is expected to last until August 24.
But the peak, the time when there will be the most, will fall on the night of Friday 12 to Saturday 13 August. Here is everything you need to know about this lovely show that promises to amaze us.
What are the Perseids?
“In fact, at the base, there is the comet Swift Tuttle”, explains Gilles Dawidowicz, vice-president of the astronomical society of France and president of the commission of planetology.
“She, she passes once every 133 years in front of the Earth. The last time was in 1992. What interests us here is all the dust that is detached from it as it travels. This swarm is also called the torus”, specifies the vice-president.
This dust, whose size fluctuates between that of a grain of sand and that of a grain of flour, passes close to us every year.
“As they enter our atmosphere at 58 km per second, they burn up leaving a trail behind them. Depending on their composition, the color may vary. »
How not to miss any shooting star?
Knowing that the trail left by shooting stars remains visible for a maximum of one second, it is impossible to see them all.
The moon could possibly be problematic, but it won’t stay in view all night. If ever it causes too much light, do not hesitate to position yourself so that it is hidden behind a tree, for example.
On the other hand, it is possible to maximize the chances of being impressed by following these few tips:
- Position yourself as far away from any light pollution.
- Give your eyes time to adjust to the darkness.
- Try not to stare too much at the full moon, the light source.
- Look northeast.
How many can we see?
It can go up to 200 shooting stars in one hourbut “it’s very variable”, insists Gilles Dawidowicz.
On this subject, the astronomical society of France invites you to participate in scientific research by counting the number of shooting stars you will see. For this, she proposes a protocol to be well aware of what the Perseids are, then to fill out an online form with your observations. To your notebooks!
Why is it so popular?
It is a famous phenomenon because in August, the conditions are optimal for observing the sky. “It’s not cold, people are on vacation so they can watch…”
And a small, not insignificant detail: “unlike certain space events, the Perseids do not require any instrument to see them”, specifies the president of the planetology commission.
This is a meeting with people, everyone, to make easy astronomy. A very good time to philosophize in front of the immensity of the universe.
Can we see them every year?
The answer to this question is a resounding yes: the Perseid swarm is made up of billions of pieces of dust.
“Like everything, it will disappear one day, but on a human scale, it is far too distant for us to concern ourselves. »
The Perseids were there before us, and they will be here after us.
Is there anything negative with the showers of shooting stars?
We are entitled to ask the question. Just as fireworks pollute and are very expensive, what is the downside of meteor showers like the Perseids?
” Absolutely nothing. They burn in the atmosphere, far too far away to affect us in any way, ”replies Gilles Dawidowicz tit for tat.
For once, no need to think about the consequences. We can just let ourselves be carried away by this magical spectacle, so close, but at the same time so far.
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