Additional Math Pages & Resources

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Perseid Outburst—Showers of Stars

Perseid meteors light up the sky in August 2009 • Photo courtesy of NASA
A meteor shower is a spike in the number of meteors or "shooting stars" that streak through the night sky. An outburst is a meteor shower with more meteors than usual.

During the nights of August 11 and 12, we will have a chance to see a spectacular meteor shower—the Perseids. In the dark of the night we will be able to see thousands of these brilliant falling stars.

The annual Perseid meteor shower is anticipated to be one of the best potential meteor viewing opportunities this year.

The Perseids are not a danger to Earth. Most burn up 50 miles above us. But an outburst could mean trouble for spacecraft.

“Forecasters are predicting a Perseid outburst this year with double normal rates on the night of Aug. 11-12,” said Bill Cooke with NASA’s Meteoroid Environments Office in Huntsville, Alabama. “

Under perfect conditions, rates could soar to 200 meteors per hour.”

The last Perseid outburst occurred in 2009. Read more from NASA.

These meteors can be seen most clearly during the early morning hours of August 11 and 12.

The best way to see the Perseids is to go outside between midnight and dawn on the morning of Aug. 12. Allow about 45 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark.

When a meteor appears, it seems to "shoot" quickly across the sky, and its small size and intense brightness might make you think you're seeing a star.

Astronomers are predicting 100-200 Perseid meteors an hour so grab a friend and check it out! But be sure to be patient, get comfortable, and watch as long as possible for the best show. Plan to watch for at least half an hour.

A reclining chair or ground pad will make it far more comfortable to keep your gaze on the night sky. Lie on your back and look straight up. Increased activity may also be seen on Aug. 12-13.

Be sure to put away the telescope or binoculars. Using either reduces the amount of sky you can see at one time, lowering the odds that you'll see anything but darkness. Experts suggest you let your eyes hang loose and don't look in any one specific spot.

Relaxed eyes will quickly zone in on any movement up above, and you'll be able to spot more meteors. Avoid looking at your cell phone or any other light. Both get in the way of night vision.

For stargazers experiencing cloudy skies, a live broadcast of the Perseid meteor shower will be available via Ustream overnight on Aug. 11-12 and Aug. 12-13, beginning at 10 p.m. EDT.

Read more about meteor showers on our previous blog post: Catch a Falling Star: Meteor Showers 

In Excel Math, we help students develop higher-order thinking skills so they will have a love for math and want to be life-long learners. Former Excel Math students often mention that their Excel Math class was where they first developed a love for math.

Watching the meteor shower this weekend with your family and friends (and reading a bit about it beforehand) is a just one fun way to help foster that love of learning.

Read a brief history of Excel Math here.

Download our Scientific Research Report to see how schools around the country are building student success with Excel Math.