If you're a romantic, then you'll probably love tonight's gibbous Moon. If not, then you might hate it, because it'll interfere with one of the year's best meteor showers -- at least for a while.
The Perseid shower is at its peak late tonight. At best, you might see a few dozen of its "shooting stars" racing across the sky in just a few hours.
The Perseids are named for the constellation Perseus. If you traced the path of each meteor, they'd all point back toward Perseus, which clears the horizon in the north-northeast in late evening.
But the real parent of the Perseids is Comet Swift-Tuttle -- a big ball of ice mixed with rock and dirt. As it comes close to the Sun, some of its ice vaporizes, releasing small bits of the rock and dirt. These particles spread out along the comet's orbit. Earth flies through this orbital path every August, so it sweeps up some of the particles. They vaporize as they streak into our atmosphere at tens of thousands of miles an hour, forming the streaks of light known as meteors.
Unfortunately, you can't see most of them without really dark skies -- away from city lights, and away from moonlight. With the gibbous Moon in the sky, you won't see many meteors.
But there is a bright side -- or is it a dark side? Anyway, the Moon sets around 2 or 3 in the morning, depending on your location. So that leaves a few hours of dark skies for watching Perseid meteors.
We'll have more about the Moon tomorrow.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2008
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