Solar storms not forecast, but Perseid meteor shower active

11 Aug 2011

NASA is not forecasting any upcoming solar storm eruptions today, so telecomms won’t be affected, but it says people are in for a cosmic delight as they have apex of the annual Perseid meteor shower to look forward to this weekend.

With the departure of active sunspot 1263, the earthside of the sun has grown relatively quiet, said NASA’s today, referring to solar flare activity.

The NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center also said today it expects the geomagnetic field to be quiet to unsettled today (11 August), with a “slight chance for active conditions, particularly at high latitudes.”

NOAA anticipates that tomorrow and Saturday (12-13 August) will be “predominately quiet.”

It said today that in-depth analysis of the CME associated with the largest solar flare to hit the earth two days ago on 9 August suggests that “the bulk of the material will not be geoeffective”.

“A slight disruption in the geomagnetic field may be observed with shock passage,” affirmed NOAA.

Perseid meteor shower treat for stargazers

However, with the earth now entering a stream of debris from comet Swift-Tuttle, the International Space Station will also cruise over US towns and cities during the peak of the annual Perseid meteor shower against the backdrop of the full moon on 12-13 August, so it’s not often that all three events collide.

While it will mean that visibility of the majority of the meteors will obscured due to the glare of the full moon, the International Meteor Organization (IMO) is expecting a peak of roughly 100 meteors per hour to occur in the night of 12-13 August.

However, the IMO is still encouraging people to make visual observations and to submit them to its site.

Already, NASA says the meteor shower is in progress, as the Earth is currently passing through a broad stream of debris from comet Swift-Tuttle. NASA says specks of comet dust are hitting the top of Earth’s atmosphere at 140,000 m/ph and international observers are reporting nearly 20 perseids per hour.

Before dawn is the best time to watch out for meteors, as it is when the radiant point for the Perseids is highest in the sky. It is also best to go meteor watching under dark skies in the country and to allow for 20 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the darkness.

2,000 years of the Perseids meteor shower

Associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle, the Perseids meteor shower has been happening annually for about 2,000 years, with the earliest recording of the shower arising from the Far East.

Because of the path of Swift-Tuttle’s orbit, Perseids are primarily visible in the northern hemisphere. The name Perseids is derived in part from the word Perseides, a term in Greek mythology that refers to the sons of Perseus.

Photo: Image of Perseid meteor shower taken in 2007

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic