Sunday, August 8, 2010

NASA - Bright Fireball Kicks Off Perseid Meteor Shower

A Perseid meteor skimming the Earth's atmosphere. Seen from UK's ancient Stonehenge.

A Perseid meteor -- about 1 inch in diameter and moving at a speed of 134,000 mph -- entered the atmosphere 70 miles above the town of Paint Rock, Ala.

At such a tremendous velocity, the meteor cut a path some 65 miles long, finally burning up 56 miles above Macay Lake, just northeast of the town of Warrior. The meteor was about six times brighter than the planet Venus and would be classified as a fireball by meteor scientists.

A map showing the path of a Perseid some 65 miles long from Paint Rock, Ala., to Macay Lake. Image Credit: NASA/MSFC

The Perseid radiant was low in the sky when the meteor appeared --only 9.5 degrees elevation. Therefore, this meteor could be considered an “Earth grazer” because of its long, shallow path, with an atmospheric entry angle of only 12 degrees.

It’s a very good start to this year's Perseid meteor shower, which will peak on the night of Aug. 12-13 between midnight and dawn.

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