August 10, 2010



Perseids meteor shower peaks tomorrow


Hamilton, Ont. August 10, 2010If the weather co-operates Ontarians will be in for a stunning finale tomorrow and Thursday of a meteor shower that has gripped night-sky watchers for the past few weeks.

Astronomers are calling this a significant meteor shower, with the bonus that the moon won’t be up during the hours of greatest activity [between 10 pm and sunrise], eliminating the distraction of moonlight. As well, the Perseids occur during the summer when many are camping or at the cottage, giving everyone a great view of the night sky.

Sarah Symons, professor of astronomy at McMaster University, suggests leaving the telescope and binoculars at home as meteor showers are easiest to see with the naked eye, and getting away from heavy light pollution, although some of the brighter meteors should be visible in suburban areas.

So-named because they appear to come from the constellation Perseus, the Perseids, are caused by debris left behind from Swift-Tuttle, which passes through the inner solar system every 133 years, leaving behind a trail of dust and rock. As Earth travels through the debris field the dust and rock hit the atmosphere at more than 200,000 kilometres per hour, creating the streaks of light that make up the meteor shower.

“Not only are they travelling at high speeds, but they’re also very high up in the atmosphere,” says Symons, noting that even the lowest meteors are still 60 to 70 kilometres in the sky.



Sarah Symons, professor of astronomy at McMaster University, is available for interviews about the Perseids meteor shower.

Please contact:

Jane Christmas
Media Relations Manager
McMaster University

905-525-9140 ext. 27988