Doozy of a Meteor Show on Tap for Thursday Evening

NASA

Perseid meteor photographed in Aug. 2009
NASA/Pete Lawrence

Grab a blanket and settle down in a good spot outdoors Thursday evening. A three-day meteor shower is going to start around 10 pm, east coast time - and it's going to be a good one. Here's how NASA's Tony Phillips describes the annual "Perseid" meteor shower:

The Perseid meteor shower is caused by debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle. Every 133 years the huge comet swings through the inner solar system and leaves behind a trail of dust and gravel. When Earth passes through the debris, specks of comet-stuff hit the atmosphere at 140,000 mph and disintegrate in flashes of light. These meteors are called Perseids because they fly out of the constellation Perseus.
The viewing will be clearer this year because lunar glare isn't expected to be visible during the midnight-to-dawn period. Last week, astronomers got a peek of coming attractions when an asteroid turned into a fireball in the skies visible in the southeastern United States. Friday night stargazing may be the best time to take it all in as the crescent moon is expected to set before the finish of twilight, offering up a very dark sky to behold. And if you do get out and about to watch the big show, the sky map (below) might be helpful to print out and bring along.

NASA

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    Charles Cooper is an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet. E-mail Charlie.

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