The Perseid Meteor Shower in Tofino
by Erica Dolsen and Claire Jutras, Tofino
Flying towards earth at up to 216 000 km/h, hunks of space debris slam
into the atmosphere, burning as they go. Not the end of the world!— Just
the Perseid Meteor Shower. This particular shower is visible every
summer from mid-July onwards as the Earth passes the orbit of the Comet
Swift-Tuttle. We should have quite a show this year as 2004 is forecasted
to be one of the best for viewing the Perseids; especially on their
peak on the night of August 11th.
What is making this happen? Well, listen closely as the summer students
from the Raincoast Interpretive Centre give the lowdown on this exciting
free party in the sky. Meteors are hunks of space debris, flying
through space at incredible speeds, becoming hotter and brighter as
As the heat gained from the friction between the debris and the particles
in our atmosphere becomes greater and greater, the meteoroid starts
to vaporize and emit light and is usually completely consumed about
100 km above the planet.
Bigger, brighter, longer lasting meteors with comet-like tails of
light are known as fireballs; smaller, fainter meteors are often called
stars. The Perseid meteor shower is space dust and debris from the
Comet Swift-Tuttle. When hundreds of meteors appear to originate
from the same constellation, this is termed a meteor shower. The Perseid
meteor shower originates from the constellation Perseus and is one
of the most reliable showers to happen during the year. Perseus was
a Greek hero who rescued Andromeda as she was chained to a rock,
sacrifice to Cetus.
We are lucky this year, as the sky will be darker due to the new
moon, and if we are very lucky the sky will even be clear enough to
shower! Your best bet for stargazing is when the sky is darkest (between
midnight and 4 am), and away from the artificial lights in town.
If you are lying down, point your toes northeast and prepare to see
to 60 meteors per hour! Superstition holds that it is unlucky to
point at a shooting star, and common sense says to bring a loved one
a few blankets, stay up late and enjoy the show.
The Perseid Meteor shower is caused by debris of the comet Swift-Tuttle and provides a great show on the beaches of Tofino. This article was written by Erica Dolsen and Claire Jutras from the Raincoast Interpretive Centre in Tofino.