Will Earth Experience ET Interlopers Tonight?

11400meteorshower It appears that tiny shards of Comet Hartley 2 may have presented a spectacular and startling sky show across the country yesterday. Periodic meteor showers have been called the bones of comets.

"Many people don't realize that the famous periodic meteor shower in August, the Perseids, is the remains of Comet Swift-Tuttle and the Orionids, appearing in late October, are leftovers from Comet Halley," said Tim Spahr, Director of the Minor Planet Center at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.The Quadrantid meteor shower, visible in January, are the remains of an ancient comet observed by Chinese, Japanese and Korean astronomers 500 years ago.


Tonight and Friday evening, we may see more of Comet Hartley 2 which NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft rendenvouzed with today.. The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics recommends that if you have dark skies and a small telescope or binoculars, try to find Comet Hartley 2 itself. It will be near the bright star Procyon in the constellation Canis Minor near Orion the Hunter, which will be high overhead in the early hours before dawn.

Harvard's Center for Astrophysics has collected several sightings of bright meteors called fireballs, which result when comet dust burns up in Earth's atmosphere.
 
When a comet approaches the Sun, it heats up unevenly, throwing off dust, ice and bits of rock. When the Earth encounters some of this space debris, it is seen as a beautiful meteor shower.

Via the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

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