By Martin Leduc
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They can be red, blue or green. They rotate at a speed close to the 58km/second. These are the shooting stars of the Perseids, a phenomenon that only occurs once a year. This year it started on July 17 and is expected to last until August 24.
But the peak, the moment when there will be more, will fall on the night of Friday 12 to Saturday 13 August. Here is everything you need to know about this beautiful show that promises to amaze us.
What are the Perseids?
“In fact, the comet Swift Tuttle is at the base,” explains Gilles Dawidowicz, vice president of the French astronomical society and president of the planetology commission.
“She, she passes once every 133 years in front of the Earth. The last time was in 1992. What we are interested in here is all the dust that comes off of it as she travels. That swarm is also called a bull”, specifies the vice president.
This dust, which is between the size of a grain of sand and a grain of flour, passes by us every year.
“As they enter our atmosphere at 58 km per second, they burn up and leave a trail behind them. Depending on its composition, the color may vary. »
How not to miss any shooting stars?
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 troublesome, but it won’t stay in view all night. If it ever causes too much light, don’t 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 as possible from any light pollution.
- Give your eyes time to adjust to the dark.
- Try not to look too much at the full moon, the source of light.
- Look northeast.
How many can we see?
can go up to 200 shooting stars in one hourbut “it is very variable”, insists Gilles Dawidowicz.
On this subject, the French astronomical society invites you to participate in scientific research by counting the number of shooting stars you will see. To do this, it proposes a protocol to be well aware of what the Perseids are, then 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 to see…”
And a small detail, not negligible: “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 of people, of all, to do 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 dust particles.
“Like everything, it will disappear one day, but on a human scale, it is too far away for us to worry about. »
The Perseids were there before us, and they will be here after us.
Is there something negative with shooting star showers?
We have the right to ask the question. Just as fireworks pollute and are very expensive, what’s wrong with meteor showers like the Perseids?
“Absolutely nothing. They burn in the atmosphere, too far away to affect us in any way,” answers Gilles Dawidowicz eye for an eye.
For once, there is no need to think about the consequences. We can simply let ourselves be carried away by this magical spectacle, so close, but at the same time so far away.
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