On the night of Saturday to Sunday, August 12-13, the annual meteor shower peaks in the sky. In French-speaking Switzerland, nearly 500 cities and towns have been called upon to turn off their lights to allow for better monitoring by the public.
Up to 100 shooting stars can be seen per hour between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., according to Meteonews. After a record high in 2018, the meteor stream was expected to weaken again this year. The night from Saturday to Sunday was the most suitable for observing, but the meteors could have been admired before and the swarm would still be active..
The best lookouts are far from big cities, on hills and mountains. Since a hurricane is expected with clear skies on the weekend, the visibility of the shooting star should be good. The use of a telescope is not necessary.
The shooting stars are actually the debris of Comet Swift-Tuttle. This stream of meteors the size of a speck of dust or a pea swirls at 59 kilometers per second, or about 200,000 km/h, and burns up at the edge of Earth’s atmosphere.
The debris compresses the air in front of them, heating it to thousands of degrees. As a result, at an altitude of 70 km to 100 km above the Earth, large fragments of rock and ice explode as bright fireballs. Smaller fragments of debris can travel into Earth’s atmosphere as they evaporate, and this gradual destruction leaves longer, light traces in their wake.
They can be observed every year at the same time. Our planet, in orbit around the sun, is drowning in the debris cloud left by the comet.
Swift-Tuttle’s orbit around the Sun takes 133 years. The last time this comet reached perihelion (closest approach to the sun) was in 1992. It will return in the year 2125,
General lighting is dim
Several cities in French-speaking Switzerland have turned off part of their public lighting to allow residents to better see the shooting stars. In this fifth edition, nearly 500 municipalities have been invited to make the switch: 217 towns have responded to the call in francophone Switzerland, 70 more than last year.
For example, municipalities are involved in the process in the four corners of the canton of Vaud. In Lausanne, Auchy and Sauvablene, two areas without car traffic plunged into darkness.
>> Perseids project map
Elsewhere in French-speaking Switzerland, a significant portion of its 6,600 street lamps were not lit at Neuchâtel at all. Downtown, which has hosted many important events such as the Buskers in the pedestrian zone, was an exception.
Sion, Sierre, Bulle (FR) or Porrentruy (JU) have also announced that they will leave more room for darkness to enhance stargazing.
Founded in 2019 in Orbe (VD), the Perseides Project is a non-profit association that aims to turn off artificial lighting across Europe every year on the night of August 12th to 13th. In German-speaking Switzerland, the organization Dark-Sky, of American origin, has created an antenna: it deals with the problem of light pollution in Switzerland.
Note that shooting stars can also be observed online, particularly on the live observation provided on the night of August 12th to August 13th, from 3:30 a.m., by Project.
>> Rain of Stars on YouTube on the night of August 12-13
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