Balls of fire

August 11, 2017

This fireball from a meteor shower in 1994 is one of the largest ever recorded.

They are predicted and they could happen.

From next week onwards you might be seeing stars, shooting stars that is!

Everyone’s favourite meteor shower, the Perseids, make an appearance and the outcome could be pretty spectacular.

People are already seeing large fireballs common with this shower, and you could see them, too.

Meteor showers happen when you get lots of meteors at one time.

Centred mainly over the Northern Hemisphere, we should get a good sprinkling here though.

‘‘This is a good shower for beginners with estimates of a dozen or so per hour if they fire up,’’ Dave Reneke said.

‘‘As with all showers, the best time for viewing will be from around midnight until an hour before sunrise. Best nights for viewing will be on August 12 and early dawn August 13.’’

Meteors showers originate from leftover fragments of comets and asteroids.

Comets that travel through the sun leave dust behind.

When the earth passes through that debris, those remnants clash with the atmosphere, disintegrate and generate colourful, sparkling streaks we love to watch.

‘‘I bet you didn’t know space rocks could burn,’’ Mr Reneke said.

‘‘They often appear as green lights as they barrel towards earth. The friction sets them ablaze as we see them streak across the night sky and a fireball is born.’’

Meteors look pretty when they fall, but there is money in those space rocks.

Most contain extremely valuable metals with grades many times higher than those on earth.

‘‘If you’re keen, you can help gather important meteor data simply by switching on their phones. It’s no gimmick, it really works and is tons of fun,’’ Mr Reneke said.

‘‘Fireballs in the Sky is a new smartphone app developed by researchers for iOS and Android users allowing you to track the paths of meteors and fireballs as they fly overhead.’’

As well as reporting detailed meteor sightings, the app also keeps you up to date with the latest images, news and sighting announcements.

Go to www.fireballsinthesky.com.au

Want some free stuff? Head to Dave’s website www.davidreneke.com and download a whole range of fact sheets and free e-books on astronomy.

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