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Canadian skies light up

Beverley Ann D'Cruz, staff writer

August 13, 2010 — What a week it was to have your eyes on the sky in Canada. Some people were lucky enough to see the Perseids meteor shower, while others spotted the Aurora Borealis.

Perseid meteor shower captured in Sointula, B.C. Wednesday
Perseid meteor shower captured in Sointula, B.C. Wednesday

It's been described as one of the most spectacular celestial shows. And last night, many stargazers cleared their calendars in hopes of catching the Perseids meteor shower.

For some, the event began as early as Wednesday. According to astronomer Andrew Fazekas, meteor counts were averaging up to 40 per hour in some places. Those who caught the show that night were likely in dark locations and away from polluted skies.

The main event however was during the evening hours on Thursday into the early morning hours today. Where skies were clear, up to a hundred could be seen every hour.

The annual shower is the result of debris left along the cosmic orbit of the Comet Swift-Tuttle as it moves through the solar system. When the particles enter the earth's atmosphere they burn up and disintegrate, thus causing the meteors to streak across the sky.

Aurora Borealis lights up the sky in Alberta
Aurora Borealis lights up the sky in Alberta

Dr. Peter Brown, a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Western Ontario compares the event to a fireworks-like display.

“It is a visual perspective effect and it is like all the meteors in the atmosphere are moving along parallel paths,” says Dr. Brown. “And as seen by an observer on the surface of the earth, all the meteors seem to emanate from one point in the sky. That point from where all the meteors seem to radiate from is called the radiant.”

This point lies in the constellation Perseus, from which the shower gets its name. The meteors move at an incredible speed, which is almost 200 times faster than the speed of sound.

It was around this time last week that many lucky Canadians also had the chance to witness the Aurora Borealis light up the skies.

If you caught anything in the skies, we'd love to see your photos. You can upload them to our Your Weather Gallery section of the website.

With files from Lyndsay Morrison and Andrea Stockton

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