Friday, June 30, 2017

Asteroid Day and National Meteor Watch Day share June 30th

Two days that celebrate awareness of objects that fall to Earth from space share June 30th.*  The first is Asteroid Day, which I first celebrated last year.  The second is National Meteor Watch Day.  This may be only a coincidence, but I can't resist making the connection.

I quoted Wikipedia and added my own comments last year about Asteroid Day.
Asteroid Day is an annual global awareness movement that brings people from around the world together to learn about asteroids and what we can do to protect our planet, our families, communities, and future generations. Asteroid Day is held on the anniversary of the June 30, 1908 Siberian Tunguska event, the largest asteroid impact on Earth in recent history.
That's what I have been hoping my observance of Apophis Day would do since 2012, when I declared April 13th to be Apophis Day, the date of two future close encounters of the asteroid Apophis with Earth, the second of which was originally forecast as a possible collision.  However, I'm not Brian May, astrophysicist and guitarist for Queen, so I don't have the connections or star power to get that day go viral like he does.  Oh, well.  What's important is that the message gets out, and Queen and his fellow scientists and celebrities are doing just that.
Now, here's what National Day Calendar says about National Meteor Watch Day.
National Meteor Watch Day is observed every year on June 30th.  Also known as National Meteor Day, on a cloudless night, people turn their eyes to the heavens in hopes of spotting the glow of a falling star.
Daily there are millions of meteors that occur in the Earth’s atmosphere.
When space debris, such as pieces of rock, enter the earth’s atmosphere the friction causes the surrounding air to become scorching hot. This “shooting star” streaking through the sky surrounded by flaming hot air is a meteor.

The majority of the meteoroids that cause meteors are only the size of a pebble.

Meteors sometimes occur in showers. National Meteor Watch Day is an excellent time to plan for a meteor watching party. Whether it is to catch a few stray falling stars or to watch an entire meteor shower, gathering the kids or a few friends to map the constellations while waiting to make a wish or two is sure to be a fun time.

In the Northern Hemisphere, one of the most active meteor showers is the Perseids. Named after the constellation Perseus where the majority of the activity takes place, the meteors are caused by particles released by the comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. Active from mid-July to late August, the Perseids are known to put on a dazzling display at its peak, especially when the skies are clear and the moon is new.

Meteors are usually observed at night and are visible when they are about 34 to 70 miles above the Earth, and they often disintegrated at about 31 to 51 miles above.  Their glow time is usually about a second.

A small percent of meteoroids hit the Earth’s atmosphere and then skip back into space.

The chemical composition and the speed of the meteoroid will cause different hues to the light.  Possible colors and elements producing them include:
  • Orange/yellow (sodium)
  • Yellow (iron)
  • Blue/green (copper)
  • Purple (potassium)
  • Red (silicate)
A list of meteor shower dates as well as a guide to successful watching can be found on the EarthSky website.
Here's to observing objects that fall from space into the sky today, whether they are objects that inspire wonder (meteors) or fear (asteroids).  Happy Asteroid Day and Happy National Meteor Watch Day!  Don't forget to make a wish!

That's it for June.  Stay tuned for the first post of July, which will be about Canada Day.

*So does Social Media Day.  That's a cool holiday, but it has nothing to do with outer space, so I'm not featuring it.  Priorities.

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