Rest of Summer Full of Asteroids, Shooting Stars

By By Samantha Kramer, Staff Writer
August 01, 2012, 12:58:52 PM EDT

Get ready, stargazers. The summer's night sky is getting active.

It kicked off last weekend with an asteroid almost a half-mile long — about the size of a city block — flying by Earth. The asteroid 2002 AM31 came within 3.2 million miles of our planet on Sunday.

Another asteroid, named 2012 OQ, is expected to zip by tonight, and will be five times closer than last weekend's asteroid, Outten said. Because it is much smaller, about 200 m or the size of four Olympic-sized swimming pools, viewers will need a telescope for the asteroid.

Outten said asteroids frequently enter our solar system and can be monitored by scientists, but the proximity of the two passing by this week is not as common.

"This next pair are probably the closest ones in a while," he said.

This weekend, July 28 and 29, should also be added to the calendar, as the annual Southern Delta Aquarids meteor showers will come into their peak view.

Each year in August, Earth passes into the debris trail left behind by comets. Some of the debris is up to 1,000 years old.

"They are an annual thing because every time this year, the Earth's orbit is in the same place," said AccuWeather Meteorologist Mark Paquette. "[These meteors] are the debris from the Marsden and Kracht sun-grazing comets, and that is what we see as shooting stars."

Paquette said the Southern Hemisphere will have a better view of the Aquarids, but the annual Perseids shower on August 12 is another opportunity for Northern Hemisphere viewers. The Perseids, which are debris from the Swift-Tuttle comet, can produce 60 shooting stars per hour, he said.

Unfortunately, the Aquarids will be during a full moon, so the annual shooting stars won't be seen as well as they have in past years, Paquette said.


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