Sunday, August 12, 2018

Perseids from the Sky

On my regular flights between Colorado and Missouri, I am usually focused on the ground, studying the topography and rivers; should it be a night flight, I watch for city lights, observing the sequence of towns and cities that I have come to memorize from my numerous road trips.

But tonight, as I fly from Denver to Columbia, Missouri, I will be watching the sky.  This is the annual peak night for the Perseid Meteor Shower, produced by remnant debris from the Swift-Tuttle Comet.  As the Earth crosses the comet's path around the sun, the dust particles collide with and ignite in our atmosphere, producing numerous meteors.  The Perseids are often abundant and are expected to increase in coming decades as the comet's path more closely aligns with the orbit of our planet.

As I write this blog from Denver International Airport, sunset and our takeoff are still two hours away but the radar shows that precipitation is minimal between here and Columbia, suggesting that high clouds will not obscure my view.  Though the meteors are best observed after midnight, I hope to see many from 30,000 feet, far removed from the "light pollution" on the ground.