Perseid Meteor Shower
On the nights of August 11th and 12th find a dark spot in your corner of the hemisphere and look up at the night sky. The Perseid meteor shower should be spectacular. With a nearly new moon keeping the light levels low, catching the streaking tails of this two day event should be a breeze. Observers can see between 60 and 70 meteors an hour. The prime time is after midnight and it’s estimated that the night of the 12th will see greater activity.
The comet Swift-Tuttle is 16 miles, or 26 kilometers, wide and occasionally passes by Earth as it orbits the Sun. The next close encounter isn’t until 2126. Until then, the Earth repeatedly passes through the debris that the comet leaves in its wake. The dust and particles burn up as they enter Earth’s atmosphere and result in the Perseid meteor shower. The pieces are so small they rarely make it all the way to the Earth’s surface without burning up entirely.
So pull up a chair and sit on the floor! Look around for a talk by a local astronomer and if you’re lucky they might have a telescope. Mars will still be bright in the sky and worth a look. Take advantage to get a little knowledge and see the stars.
Apollo 11 Audio Tapes Released
This year marks the 49th anniversary of the successful Apollo 11 mission that landed two astronauts on the Moon. The words of Neil Armstrong addressing mission control were broadcasted around the world to a captive audience on the edge of their seats. While we remember the names and faces of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, there were many more people on the ground making this momentous occasion possible. To celebrate the efforts of these people and the work that went on behind the scenes, NASA has released 19,000 hours of audio that took years to digitize.
These recordings serve as a time capsule of NASA’s infancy and its great strides in space exploration in an incredibly short period of time. The effort to convert the tapes to digital was a learning experience that required technological innovations to overcome multiple challenges, from creating a new system to support the decades old playback system; to complex sentiment detection systems to automatically detect heightened emotional conversations and remove long pauses.
So much work went into making the mission a success and it continues to push the boundaries of technological advancement today.