Astronomers celebrate ‘celestial pollution’ from Perseid Meteor Shower

“Celestial Pollution” from meteors like this weekend’s Perseid Meteor Shower sprinkle sodium high up in our atmosphere and give astronomers what they need to see the universe in much greater detail.

This weekend, as millions of people gaze up at the stars and wait for Perseid meteors to streak across the sky, one would hardly think that these awe-inspiring “shooting stars” are also a source of atmospheric pollution.

However, meteors, like those from this month’s Perseid meteor shower, burn up high in the Earth’s atmosphere leaving behind gases. “It’s a form of natural pollution,” says Gemini Observatory’s Chad Trujillo who heads up the facility’s state-of-the-art Adaptive Optics (AO) program.

This “pollution” doesn’t actually pose a threat to humanity, (it’s been around for eons and seems to have had no adverse effect), but it’s a real boon to astronomers.

Astronomers use these artificial stars, called laser-guide-stars, for AO systems such as the latest technology at the Gemini South telescope in Chile. AO allows scientists to see the universe with unprecedented clarity.

The Perseid meteors are byproducts of Comet 109/Swift-Tuttle, which leaves a trail of dust and ice behind when it passes by Earth’s orbit. Each year, however, the Earth passes through the comet’s dust- and ice-filled orbit. As it plows through that “debris,” it’s small particles burn up in our atmosphere.

Full Article

Credit: Gemini Observatory/AURA

Posted 1 year ago with 730 notes
Tagged:perseid meteor showerperseidsscienceAstronomystarsMeteor ShowermeteorNight Sky

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