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The 2018 Perseid Meteor Shower Peaks This Weekend! Here's What to Expect

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The new moon of August comes on Saturday the 11th this year, perfectly timed to bring dark, moonless nights around the peak of the Perseid meteor shower. Indeed, 2018 is an excellent year to watch for these meteors; such moonless-sky conditions are ideal for observing the Perseids.

Moreover, Earth should pass through the shower's richest part around 9 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday, Aug. 12 (0100 GMT on Aug. 13).

So, late that night into the predawn hours of Monday, Aug. 13, viewers in North America and Europe should have the best seats in the house. Late-summer campers should put their sleeping bags outside the tent to enjoy this "Old Faithful" of meteor showers. [Perseid Meteor Shower 2018: When, Where & How to See It]

The Perseids no longer hold the title of the "most prolific" of the annual meteor displays; the December Geminids now produce meteors in greater numbers. But the Perseids are still the most popular because they appear during balmy summer nights as opposed to the wintry Geminids. 

Of course, the Perseids are not stars dropping from their fixed positions in the sky. Rather, they are tiny flecks of material that were shed by Comet Swift-Tuttle each time it swept past the sun. While meteors can be seen on any given night, the majority of meteors that are seen in mid-August skies belong to the Perseid stream. (See a visualization of the Perseids here.)

Comet Swift-Tuttle was discovered during the summer of 1862 by Lewis Swift, an amateur astronomer based in New York; and Horace Tuttle, a professional astronomer at the Harvard College Observatory. The comet has an orbital period of roughly 130 years and was last sighted in December 1992. Its next expected return is slated for August 2126. 

The comet has likely circled the sun many hundreds of times and has left a "river of rubble" in its wake. Because the respective orbits of Earth and Comet Swift-Tuttle nearly coincide in the middle of August, Earth ends up sweeping through this rubble river. As we plow through the debris field, these tiny pieces of comet dust ram through the upper atmosphere at 37 miles per second (60 kilometers per second). Friction with the atmosphere raises these particles to white heat and produces an incandescent trail of ionized gas, which dleads to tt the "shooting star" effect. 

The 2018 Perseid meteor shower peaks overnight on Aug. 12-13, 2018. This sky map shows where to look at 11 p.m. local time this weekend.

The 2018 Perseid meteor shower peaks overnight on Aug. 12-13, 2018. This sky map shows where to look at 11 p.m. local time this weekend.

Credit: Sky & Telescope Magazine

As with all meteor showers, the Perseids will appear to diverge from a small spot ind the sky, called the "radiant" — in this case, it's the northern part of the constellation Perseus, located not far from its famous Double Cluster (hence the name "Perseids"). For much of the United States, the radiant is already above the northeast horizon as darkness is falling. If you're lucky, you might catch sight of a few Perseids as early as 9 or 10 in the evening. These forerunners stand out from the meteors later in the night because they produce long, bright paths across the greater part of the sky.

Such meteors are called "Earth skimmers" and often leave long-lasting trains in their wake. Earth skimmers are very distinctive because they follow a path nearly parallel to our planet's atmosphere, but during the evening hours, they tend to be few and far between. But after the stroke of midnight, meteor activity begins to noticeably ramp up because we're on the forward-moving side of Earth and are ramming straight into the Perseid stream. Meteor activity also picks up around this time because the radiant is climbing higher in the sky; from midnight until the first light of dawn, meteors may appear at rates of 60 to 90 per hour, and this frequency is another reason this display is so popular. 

If, however, you live in a brightly lit city surrounded by obstructions such as tall buildings, you will see considerably fewer meteors. When I was a young boy living in the Throggs Neck section of the Bronx, I would watch for the Perseids from my backyard. My view of the sky was quite limited, and I also had to contend with nearby streetlights — so I usually averaged only about 10 Perseids each hour. 

In later years, I did my Perseid watching from my aunt and uncle's house in Mahopac, New York, 55 miles (88 km) north of Midtown Manhattan, which, in those days (the early 1970s), was a very dark, rural location. When I watched from the south-facing deck of the house, my hourly meteor counts were much higher, on the order of 40 or 50. If I had positioned myself toward a different location where I could see more of the sky, I probably could have seen even more meteors. [Top 10 Perseid Meteor Shower Facts]

It's not just the quantity, but the quality, of meteors that makes the Perseids so popular. Many of the meteors you will see are swift and rather bright, in the average magnitude range of 2 to 2.5, or about the brightness of Polaris (the North Star) or the brightest stars of the Big Dipper. The brighter streaks are usually tinged with a bluish or greenish hue, while fainter meteors tend to appear yellow or white. 

About one-third of all Perseids leave luminous trains, which can persist from a few seconds to nearly a minute. Such outstandingly bright meteors are called fireballs. And according to Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office, the Perseids produce more fireballs than any other meteor shower. A few might end in flares or bursts resembling a strobe, capable of casting shadows. Such meteors are called "bolides." 

If you have binoculars, you can prolong a meteor train's visibility. It's a fascinating sight to watch a meteor streak that starts off straight and true and within just a few seconds appears to twist and turn as it responds to high-level winds in Earth's upper atmosphere at altitudes of 40 to 50 miles (65 to 80 km). 

One of the brightest Perseids I ever saw occurred back in August 1974, when I was observing the shower from the southern Adirondack Mountains with several members of the Amateur Observers' Society of New York. Here is my report, which appeared in the October 1974 issue of Astronomy magazine (page 39):

"I looked down at my tape recorder planning to insert a fresh cartridge, when it suddenly became illuminated by something which I thought at first was the dull light of one of my colleagues' heavily filtered flashlights. I instinctively looked up and was stunned by a great fireball in its final stage, moving almost due south into northern Sagittarius. The light emitted by this Perseid was intensely green and was estimated to be at least magnitude -10 (about the brightness of a first or last quarter moon)." [Photograph the 2018 Perseid Meteor Shower with These NASA Tips]

The annual Perseid meteor shower occurs when the Earth passes through a stream of dust from the Comet Swift-Tuttle, as shown in this orbit diagram.

The annual Perseid meteor shower occurs when the Earth passes through a stream of dust from the Comet Swift-Tuttle, as shown in this orbit diagram.

Credit: Sky & Telescope Magazine

The best piece of equipment for meteor watching is a long, reclining lawn chair, which you can lie on to get a wide-open view of the sky. If you stand and look upward for a long period of time, there's a fair chance that you'll find yourself nursing a stiff neck the following morning. And even though the calendar says it's midsummer, remaining stationary for a long time while lying down close to the ground can cause you to get chilled — and possibly coated with dew. Be sure to have a heavy blanket — or, better yet, a sleeping bag — on hand to stay warm. Some food and a warm beverage (no alcohol!) will keep you comfortable as well.

And it can be fun to watch for meteors with friends or even just a single companion. When I was watching for Perseids as a boy from the Bronx, my grandmother usually watched with me. We'd also have a radio tuned to a station that played dreamy classical music and popular orchestrations, which served as a fitting accompaniment to the show taking place above our heads. 

If you're clouded out of the peak viewing night, don't worry; the Perseids will continue to be evident, albeit in diminished numbers, for almost another two weeks. Hourly rates average about one-half to one-quarter of the peak numbers for a night or two before and after. And the very last stragglers have been noted as late as Aug. 24.    

As always, good luck, and here's to clear skies!

Editor's note: If you snap an awesome photo of Perseid meteors that you'd like to share with Space.com and our news partners for a potential story or gallery, send images and comments to spacephotos@space.com.

Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York's Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for Natural History magazine, the Farmers' Almanac and other publications, and he is also an on-camera meteorologist for Verizon FiOS1 News in New York's Lower Hudson Valley. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.

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Error in major climate study revealed – warming NOT higher than expected

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A major new climate study in the journal Nature got worldwide media coverage for finding that the oceans warmed dramatically faster than previously thought — but now the researchers have retracted that conclusion after a man in the United Kingdom blogged about flaws he discovered in the paper.

Just two weeks after publication, the study authors have revised their paper, and now conclude that the oceans are warming fast — but at the same rate as other measurements have found.

A study co-author took responsibility for the error. “I accept responsibility for these oversights because it was my role to ensure that details of the measurements were correctly understood and taken up by coauthors,” study co-author Ralph Keeling wrote in an explanation of the revision.

CATASTROPHIC GLOBAL WARMING LESS LIKELY, STUDY SAYS

The error was first discovered by Nic Lewis, a retired British man who holds a bachelors degree in math from the University of Cambridge and who reads science papers for fun. He has also written a couple of published papers of his own on climate science.

“I’ve always liked to understand the world and to check whether people’s research makes sense to me. Once I find something that seems wrong to me, I like to get to the bottom of it,” Lewis told Fox News.

Lewis said the incident should serve as a cautionary tale.

AL GORE WOULD HAVE LOST GLOBAL WARMING BET, ACADEMIC SAYS

“I think it shows that the fact that a study is peer-reviewed and published by a premier journal gives very little assurance that its findings are valid,” Lewis said.

“I was slightly surprised that neither the peer reviewers nor the editor had spotted what seemed to me an obvious red flag on page 1 of the paper,” he added.

Lewis said that the reviewers who approved that paper may have looked less closely for errors because the conclusion agreed with the typical belief that global warming is an extreme crisis.

‘ARBITRARY’ ADJUSTMENTS EXAGGERATE SEA LEVEL RISE, STUDY FINDS

But all involved, including Lewis, agree that manmade greenhouse gas emissions are warming the oceans.

“People shouldn’t be left with the impression that the errors in this paper put into doubt whether the ocean interior is warming. It clearly is wholly or mainly due to human greenhouse gas emissions,” Lewis said.

The study co-author who took responsibility for the error also made that point.

TERRIFYING CLIMATE CHANGE WARNING: 12 YEARS UNTIL WE’RE DOOMED

“The evidence for ocean warming continues to be supported by millions of temperature readings throughout the oceans made by the international Argo network of sensors,” Keeling told Fox News.

The Argo network of sensors consists of nearly 4,000 floats around the world that observe the ocean. The study done by Keeling and his coauthors attempted to estimate ocean temperatures a totally different way — “by using measurements of atmospheric oxygen (O2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) … which increase as the ocean warms and releases gases.”

Keeling said that such a study still had some value.

GLOBAL WARMING WILL RUIN BEER, SCIENTISTS WARN

“Our study still also provides independent evidence that the ocean is warming. We accept that our method doesn’t determine the amount of warming as precisely as we previously thought,” Keeling added.

Keeling also acknowledged Lewis for pointing out the error.

“The scientific process is self-correcting when errors are made or new evidence is discovered. Hats off to Nic Lewis for his role here,” Keeling said.

WORLD’S LARGEST SHIPPING COMPANY HEADS TO ARCTIC AS CLIMATE CHANGE MAY OPEN UP NEW ROUTES

While the Earth has warmed — government data show that the planet is nearly 2°F warmer than in the 1970s — researchers like Lewis make the case that climate models are not that great and may overpredict warming.

“Climate science suffers from being politicized,” Lewis told Fox News. “It’s too infected by the idea of consensus and models… warming is likely to be less severe than global climate models say.”

The author, Maxim Lott, is Executive Producer of Stossel TV and creator of ElectionBettingOdds.com. He can be reached on Twitter at @MaximLott

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Bizarre Microbes Represent a Major New Branch on the Evolutionary Family Tree

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[unable to retrieve full-text content]

  1. Bizarre Microbes Represent a Major New Branch on the Evolutionary Family Tree  Gizmodo
  2. Rare microbes lead scientists to discover new branch on the tree of life  Yahoo News Canada (blog)
  3. Canadian researchers have discovered a new kind of organism  Digital Journal
  4. Full coverage



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Cargo ship launch clears crewed mission to space station

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FILE – In this Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018 file photo, the Soyuz-FG rocket booster with Soyuz MS-10 space ship carrying a new crew to the International Space Station, ISS, blasts off at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. A Russian Soyuz rocket has put a cargo ship en route to the International Space Station, clearing the way for the next crewed mission. The launch on Friday, Nov. 16 of the Progress MS-10 resupply ship from Baikonur in Kazakhstan marked the fourth successful liftoff of a Soyuz since an crew launch last month. A Soyuz-FG rocket carrying NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos' Alexei Ovchinin failed two minutes into its flight on Oct. 11.


Dmitri Lovetsky / AP

MOSCOW — A Russian Soyuz rocket sent a cargo ship on its way to the International Space Station on Friday, a successful launch that cleared the way for the next crew to travel to the space outpost.

The launch of the Russian Progress MS-10 resupply ship from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan marked the fourth successful liftoff of a Soyuz since a launch with crew members had to be aborted last month.

A Soyuz-FG rocket carrying NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos’ Alexei Ovchinin failed two minutes into its flight on Oct. 11, activating an automatic rescue system that allowed their capsule to land safely. A Russian investigation attributed the failure to a sensor that was damaged during the rocket’s final assembly.

The accident was the first aborted crew launch for the Russian space program since 1983, when two Soviet cosmonauts jettisoned after a launch pad explosion and also had a safe landing. The Russian Soyuz spacecraft is currently the only vehicle that can ferry crews to the space station.

Since the October mishap, two Soyuz rockets were launched successfully from Plesetsk in northwestern Russia, while a third lifted off from French Guiana carrying satellites into orbit. They were of a different subtype than the rocket that failed in October, but the one that lifted off Friday was the same version.

The Progress ship is set to dock at the space station Sunday, delivering almost three tons of food, fuel, water and other supplies to the crew — NASA’s Serena Aunon-Chancellor, Russian Sergei Prokopyev and German Alexander Gerst.

In a separate supply mission, Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket with Cygnus cargo spacecraft is scheduled to lift off Saturday and dock at the station Monday.

The current crew is scheduled to return to Earth next month after the arrival of their replacements. American astronaut Anne McClain, Canadian David Saint-Jacques and Russian Oleg Kononenko are set to go up on Dec. 3.

Speaking Thursday at the Star City space training centre outside Moscow, McClain voiced confidence in the Soyuz despite October’s aborted launch.

“We trust our rocket. We’re ready to fly,” she said. “I think what we learned from the inside in October was how safe this rocket was. A lot of people called it an accident or an incident, or maybe want to use it as an example of not being safe. But for us it’s exactly the opposite because our friends came home, the systems worked and they worked exactly as they were designed.”

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