WeatherTalk: It's the time of the Perseids

The Perseid Meteor Shower is the most popular of the year.

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FARGO — For even the most amateur of astronomers, the annual Perseid meteor shower is one of the most popular sky shows around. During the first and second week of August, Earth’s orbit takes us through the path of Comet Swift-Tuttle, which has left behind a lot of dust particles and small rocks, some of which get caught in our outer atmosphere where they quickly incinerate, causing shooting stars and a few of the more spectacular fireballs.

Shooting stars are not stars at all, but tiny rocks. Fireballs are somewhat bigger rocks. The combined velocities of the meteors, the Earth in its orbit and the Earth’s rotation result in a relative speed ranging from 25,000 to 160,000 mph. Virtually all meteors burn up in the friction of the outer atmosphere, where they give a brief but beautiful light. This year, the peak of the Perseids will be August 11-12, around the time of the full moon, which will make the shooting stars a bit harder to see.

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John Wheeler is Chief Meteorologist for WDAY, a position he has had since May of 1985. Wheeler grew up in the South, in Louisiana and Alabama, and cites his family's move to the Midwest as important to developing his fascination with weather and climate. Wheeler lived in Wisconsin and Iowa as a teenager. He attended Iowa State University and achieved a B.S. degree in Meteorology in 1984. Wheeler worked about a year at WOI-TV in central Iowa before moving to Fargo and WDAY..
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