Can't see the Perseid meteor shower? Listen to it
The 2011 Perseid meteor shower peaks Saturday night. The bummer? It coincides with a full moon, so your chances of getting to see the annual celestial show are rather low. (Darn that beautiful ambient moonlight!)
But if you want to know what you're missing, tune into Space Weather Radio, a listener-supported Web radio station that has live streaming audio of the meteor shower that will continue through the weekend.
True, hearing a meteor shower isn't as cool as seeing it, but it's kind of fun to listen in for a few minutes.
The sounds of the Perseid meteor shower come to you from the Air Force Space Surveillance Radar, which is continually transmitting a signal into space. Satellites, space craft and meteors passing over head reflect those signals back to Earth.
The primary antenna is located near Lake Kickapoo, Texas, but the sounds you'll hear on Space Weather Radio come to you from Roswell, N.M., where a guy named Stan Nelson picks up the echoes via a yagi antenna on his roof. (The site offers details -- plus a suggestion on how ham radio operators can try it themselves.)
So what does a meteor shower sound like? Well, each meteor makes a haunting high-pitched ping only barely detectable over the background static. If you sit and listen for a while, you might feel as if you're taking a hearing test.
No one's saying this is a great alternative to heading out to Joshua Tree, but it takes a lot less time and neither the moon, nor the sun, can get in your way.
-- Deborah Netburn
Image: A screen grab of SpaceWeatherRadio.com