A yearly meteor shower that must have inspired wonder and fear in ancient humans — and led some more modern people to suspect that ETs were in the sky — hit its expected peak before dawn this morning.
The Perseid meteor shower, an annual event that starts in mid-August, often has been described as "fire in the sky" and may have inspired that phrase in the late John Denver's ballad "Rocky Mountain High."
During Friday night's show of the meteor shower, the event was accompanied on stage by two companions — the full moon and the International Space Station gliding far aloft above American towns and rural territory, said Tony Phillips of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
"The meteor shower is already under way. Earth is passing through a broad stream of debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle, and specks of comet dust are hitting the top of Earth's atmosphere at 140,000 mph," Phillips wrote on NASA's website. "These disintegrating meteors stream out of the constellation Perseus — hence the name 'Perseids.' "
Susan Feemster, science content specialist for the Abilene Independent School District, said she and her husband had to get out of town the last time they watched the Perseids.
"We went out past Tuscola after dark," she said.
Almost a half-century ago, American astronomer L.V. Robinson was assigned to help dispel concerns that a fiery display in the night sky over England was unidentified flying objects, possibly space aliens.
Robinson, who worked for the U.S. Air Force's Air Sciences Division, reported that to the best of his limited information, "these meteors could be an explanation of some of the sightings observed over Lakenheath and Bentwaters."
The Perseids could be quite spectacular over England, and are at their visual peak between Aug. 11 and Aug. 20, Robinson wrote in his report dated Aug. 14, 1956.
Although the peak spectacle has passed, it's not too late to view the Perseids, said Hardin-Simmons University astronomer Patrick Miller via email.
"The shower does linger around more than a couple days, since the debris stream is a wide one, and the Earth spends a couple of weeks or so crossing it," he said.
Source : http://www.reporternews.com/news/2011/aug/13/not-too-late-for-meteor-viewing/