Annual meteor shower peaked overnight

Published  2:23 PM HST Aug 11, 2013
HILO, Hawaii -

The annual Perseid meteor shower peaked overnight, and 2013 was expected to be a good year for viewing.

However, it’s more than just a light show for astronomers, who are buzzing about what the meteor shower will do for science.

Astronomers said people could have seen 70-to-100 meteors per hour in the night sky. This year, the moon set early Sunday night and weather forecasters predicted mostly clear skies.

The Perseid meteor shower is a dust trail from Comet Swift-Tuttle. Scientists said the Earth is always being bombarded by meteors, most of which usually burn up when they hit the planet’s atmosphere. The number goes up when Earth passes through the debris trail behind a comet.

Astronomers at the Gemini Observatory in Hilo planned to work during the meteor shower. The meteors leave behind sodium gas in the atmosphere. Astronomers shoot lasers into the sodium to make it glow - - creating an artificial star.

Astronomers are able to sharpen the accuracy of their telescopes using the stars.

"Basically, we look at how the atmosphere distorts a bright star, and then we can correct that," said Chris Trujillo, an astronomer at the Gemini Observatory.

Scientists call it adaptive optics, and it's important precision for the next generation of large, 30-meter telescopes.

"These large telescopes will really need adaptive optics and should provide some really amazing science," Trujillo said.

The best viewing time for the meteor shower would have been after midnight Sunday until dawn on Monday. The peak of Perseid was supposed to occur around 3 a.m.

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