The Perseid meteor shower, peaking in early
morning hours on August 12 and 13 in 2010, is
much more visible than in some years, thanks to
a waxing crescent moon. Weather permitting, conditions
are excellent for spotting dozens of
shooting stars each hour, especially after
midnight and into the early morning hours.
Below are examples from the 2008 meteor shower.:
Wimberley residents also had a less than wondrous view of the meteor
shower in 2006, thanks to competition
from the light of the waning gibbous Moon. It
overpowered all but the brightest
meteors. Viewers of the 2007 Perseid shower
experienced better conditions. Click
here for more about meteor showers.
Wimberley residents and Hill Country
vacationers in August can be treated to one of the more spectacular sky shows.
Streaks of light shoot across the sky in a dazzling display in mid-August. Earth will travel through the densest part of the Perseid stream in early
morning. Viewing should be especially rewarding during late-night hours
until the sun begins to light the morning.
The August Perseids yield as many as two meteors each minute at peak and are among the strongest of readily observed annual meteor showers. With Wimberley's still mostly-dark skies, observers may see even larger numbers. Throughout an overnight watch, there are also typically several bright, flaring meteors with excellent trains to observe.
Proving again that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, these showy meteors are
really debris from the Swift-Tuttle comet, first discovered in 1862. The dross ranges in size from sand grains to marbles. When the Earth passes close to the orbit of Swift-Tuttle, these tiny pieces crash into the Earth's atmosphere at about 133,200 miles per hour. This encounter creates the bright streaks of light that decorate the Wimberley sky.
And these little bits are hot! Meteors are heated to more than 3000 degrees Fahrenheit! No wonder they begin to glow! Meteors are heated by the compression of air in front in them, not by friction, as is commonly thought. In turn, the heated air heats the meteor, vaporizing most. The result of that phenomenon is what we call a shooting star.
Viewing can be a very pleasurable event. Who can beat the experience of lying on a sleeping bag or chaise
lounge under a clear Wimberley sky, maybe with your favorite music playing quietly, watching the meteors racing along the Milky Way? If you make sure your toes are pointed northeast, you'll get the best view.
As usual, those crazy early birds get a bonus. The best skygazing of all will happen for those who can manage to be in position at 2
AM. But if you're like the rest of us, you'll happily settle for 9 or 10 PM
hours before the early morning peak. There may not be as many meteors to see, but those that streak across the sky will create memories.
One pre-requirement is cooperation from the weather with ideal
clear skies. With that bit of luck, there can be enough "shooting stars"
in one night to make all your wishes come true!