Saturday, February 08, 2014

'Meteorite Men' Geoff Notkin discusses Perseids meteor shower

ATLANTA -- As the annual Perseid meteor shower reaches it's peek this week, a true meteorite hunter explains what the average backyard astronomer can expect from this celestial light show.

Geoffrey Notkin, host of the award-winning television series Meteorite Men and science author, discussed with this aerospace journalist on Saturday the incredible behind the scenes interest in the Perseids.

I asked Geoff, who recently published his latest book Meteorite Hunting, "Why the strong interest in this particular meteor shower?"

"When the skies are clear and the moon cooperates, the Perseid meteor shower is often the most delightful celestial event of the year," Notkin began in his hallmark British accent. "The Perseids are typically the most active meteor shower on the calendar and can provide a never-to-be-forgotten encounter with other travelers in our solar system."

Geoff adds that for this sky show, no telescope is needed, "Find a place away from electric lights, make yourself comfy and enjoy the amazing spectacle of cometary debris burning up in front of your eyes -- sometimes at more than 100,000 miles per hour!"

The meteorite specialist owns Aerolite Meteorites in Tucson, Arizona, a store which sells the special space rocks which he has recovered from around the globe.

"Do any of the Perseids space rock ever reach the ground for you to recover," I asked.

"As a meteorite specialist, I am always contacted in mid-August by people who believe a Perseid meteor fell on their property," the famed meteorite hunter said as a big smile grew and one recent incident came to mind.

"A gentleman told me by phone last year, 'I was watching the meteor shower last night and I found one of them in my driveway today'," Geoff began. "I told him, 'I'm afraid not'. No matter how bright -- and how close -- those speeding meteors may appear to us terrestrial observers, they are still many miles up in the air. They are produced when small, icy fragments left behind by comet Swift-Tuttle during it's magnificent 133 year orbit around the sunburn up in our atmosphere."

"Geoff, has there ever been any fragment found related to any meteor shower?"

"There has never been a documented case of a meteorite being recovered that was associated with an annual meteor shower such as the Perseids," he noted.

After a brief pause, he then looked over to a window as the final traces of sunlight shone through, turned my way and said, "If there is a strange rock lying in your driveway on Monday morning, I suggest talking to the prankster kids next door."

(Charles Atkeison reports on science, aerospace and technology. Follow his updates via Twitter @SpaceFlight360.)

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