Edward Herrick Perseid Meteor Shower
The 2009 Perseid Meteor Shower has the potential to be one of the best in a while! Apparently, the Earth will pass through a dust trail filament left by comet Swift Tuttle on Wednesday, August 12, 2009 between the hours of 1:00 am and 2:00 am PDT. The dedicated meteor observer could see twice as many meteors as you would normally see – we’re talking about as many as 200 per hour. Well worth staying up late for if you ask me!
The Perseid Meteor Shower got this name because the meteors appear to emanate from the constellation Perseus. Perseus is a constellation in the northern sky named after the Greek hero Perseus and it is one of the 48 constellations listed by the first century astronomer Ptolemy.
One of the first to realize that the Perseid meteors were an annual event was Edward Herrick. Edward lived in New Haven, Connecticut and owned a bookstore that served Yale students and faculty. On August 9, 1837 – while the world was still fascinated by a rather large meteor outburst that emanated from the constellation Leo in 1833, Edward observed a meteor shower that originated in the constellation Perseus. Since he was fortunate enough to own a bookstore, he did some research and found that there were historical reports of meteor showers that happened to occur around August 9th or 10th. This discovery led Herrick to write an article for the January 1838 issue of Silliman’s American Journal of Science and Arts in which he proposed the existence of a annual meteor shower. In this article, Herrick speculated that these meteors were caused by comets. A contemporary of Herrick, Adolphe Quetelet, a Belgian statistician and founder and director of the Brussels Observatory, had mentioned mid-August meteors in his 1836 annual report of the Brussels Observatory by saying “I thought I also noticed a greater frequency of these meteors in the month of August (from the 8th to the 15th).” So both Quetelet and Herrick can be credited with this discovery.