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Meteor Showers

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What are meteors, exactly? When is the best time to observe meteor showers? Is special equipment needed? To find answers to those and other questions, Education World recommends some of the best World Wide Web sites on meteors, comets, amateur astronomy, and other fascinating topics. The Perseids, the most famous meteor shower, peak on August 13!

Meteors, or shooting stars, are space debris that enter Earth's atmosphere and leave visible trails. On any given night, an observer might see a few sporadic meteors each hour. At times, however, the rate of visible meteors is much greater. Astronomers call such periods meteor showers. To learn more about meteor showers and how to observe them, Education World recommends the following Web sites.

  • Meteors and Meteor Showers
    Do you know how astronomers name meteor showers? During meteor showers, most of the meteors appear to originate from one particular point in the sky, called the radiant. A meteor shower's name typically comes from the constellation the radiant is part of. This page, hosted by the University of Tennessee Department of Physics & Astronomy, provides photographs, charts, and a good basic introduction to meteors.

  • IMO: The International Meteor Organization
    The International Meteor Organization (IMO) is a scientific, non-profit organization created to encourage, support, and coordinate amateur meteor observations around the world. At this site, users can read about observations of various meteor showers, including the Perseids, check the schedule of meteor showers for the year 2000, and find other helpful information.

  • The 2003 Perseid Meteor Shower
    Explore this NASA Web site for basic information about meteors, for suggestions about the best times to see the Perseid Showers, and for simple descriptions of what you should be looking for. You'll also find pictures of previous meteor showers -- and learn what Earthgrazers are!

  • Perseids
    The meteor shower called the Perseids occurs annually from about July 25 through August 18, peaking on August 11 or 12. The radiant -- the point from which the meteors appear to emanate -- is in the constellation Perseus. Although technical in places, some information here will appeal to novice observers. At the bottom of the page, click on C&MS Home to get to the home page of the Comets & Meteor Showers Web site for more interesting facts about this fascinating subject.

  • Sky and Telescope online magazine provides the following resources on the Perseid meteor showers: