Meteor Shower Lights Up Sky

Redlands, CA (July 27, 2011)—Anyone looking up at the night sky these summer days may think the sky is falling, but in fact it is the Southern Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower, which can produce about 20 meteors per hour at its peak.

Contrary to popular belief, falling stars are not stars at all but solid bodies, meteors, that travel through space and range in size from small specks of dust to several tons of rock.

“No matter what you call meteors, they provide a spectacular show. Simply look east after midnight on July 28 and 29 for the very best opportunities to view the showers,” says Tyler Nordgren, an astronomer and physics professor at the University of Redlands. “If you grew up making wishes on falling stars this is a terrific opportunity to share that tradition with your children. Simply take them outdoors away from street lights, spread out a blanket, lie down and look up and east.”

Although the best viewing of the meteors will be on July 28 and 29, less dramatic viewing opportunities also will occur from July 18 to August 18. The radiant point for this shower, the point in the sky from which all meteors will appear to come from, will be in the constellation Aquarius.

Nordgren, the author of “Stars Above, Earth Below: A Guide to Astronomy in the National Parks”, has served as an astronomer at the U.S. Naval Observatory and Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, where he helped build a new type of telescope to directly observe the size and shape of such household stars as Pollux and Polaris (the North Star). He was part of a team of seven astronomers and artists who converted the “Spirit” and “Opportunity” Mars Rover camera calibration targets into functioning sundials and saw them land safely in Gusev Crater and Meridiani Planum.

This November will see a new sundial headed for Mars that Nordgren helped design when NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Rover, “Curiosity,” launches from Florida on its way to the red planet. Nordgren is a member of the National Park Service Night Sky Team working to protect our park's dark skies and promote astronomy education.

Note to the media: Nordgren is available for interviews and to comment on these occurrences. He can be reached via cell phone at 909-215-8130.

Media contact: Office of Public Relations
                            (909) 748-8070

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