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Outdoors: 'Catch a Falling Star'

The Perseid meteor shower in Terlingua, Texas, on Aug. 14, 2016
Jason Weingart / Barcroft Media via Getty Images file

NBC News
The Perseid meteor shower in Terlingua, Texas, on Aug. 14, 2016.Jason Weingart / Barcroft Media via Getty Images file

"Catch a Falling Star" is a song written back in 1957 by Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss and made popular by Perry Como. I'm pretty sure these gentlemen knew that stars don't fall.

Falling stars actually are meteors ----steaks of light from glowing atmospheric gases which are responding to the friction caused when particles rush toward the Earth at approximately 132,000 miles an hour. Some particles may be random rocks or space junk. But in the middle of August each year, we anticipate the Perseid Meteor Shower.

Most (but not all) of the particles are debris left in the orbital path of Comet Swift-Tuttle. Some of the dust has been there for as long as a thousand years and some it of was deposited by the comet in 1992, the last time this comet traveled around the Sun in its 130 -year orbit.

For most of its journey, the comet remained frozen and intact, but when this comet (or any comet) gets near our Sun, the water and volatile chemicals sublimate--change from solid ice to water vapor, leaving a trail countless tiny rocks in the orbital path. When the Earth passes through the stream of small rocks, we see meteors.

Actually, the hours just before dawn are probably the best time for meteor watching and August 12th and 13th are supposed to be the peak, but any clear dark night during the next week or so, you may catch a glimpse of a falling star, but I doubt if you will be able to put it in your pocket or save it for a rainy day.

"Outdoors with Coggin Heeringa" can be heard every Wednesday on Classical IPR.