Google celebrated the recent Perseid meteor shower by developing an interactive Doodle for the popular Web site.
The virtual display features images of meteors, streaking across various outdoor scenes.
Google often pays homage to special events, birthdays and celebrations. When the search engine first went online, it broke from the mold of early search engines like Google and AOL in offering extremely bare, stripped-down styling.
The Perseid meteor shower takes place once a year, each August. This display can produce up to 100 shooting stars every hour. The show this year will peak on the evening of 12 August, although the display will be tempered by the Moon, with is nearly full through the duration of the shower. Shooting stars will continue to fall in significant numbers through the night of 13 August.
Annual meteor showers occur when the Earth, orbiting around the Sun, strikes a trail of debris left over from the passage of a comet. The icy visitor responsible for the Perseid meteor shower each year is Comet Swift-Tuttle.
This minor body orbits the Sun once every 133 years, and was first cataloged in 1862, although Chinese astronomers noted the annual event nearly 2,000 years ago. The Catholic Church refers to the event as "The Tears of St. Lawrence," as 10 August marks the anniversary of his murder.
The Perseid meteor shower can be one of the most dazzling of all annual displays, providing its moniker of the fireball champion" of shooting star events. The meteor shower gets its name from the position of the storm, appearing to emanate from the constellation of Perseus.
Skywatchers were treated to a special treat during the 2008 Perseid meteor shower, as many of the incoming objects struck the Moon. Some of these impacts were as powerful as 100 pounds of TNT, making them visible from Earth.
On the night of 10 August, our lunar companion became full, just as it reached perigee, or its closest approach to Earth. This "supermoon" was 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than normal, drowning out many of the shooting stars, streaking across the sky.
Sophia Diao designed the interactive display for the Perseid event. This is not the first time the search engine giant has created a display for the Perseids, but it is the most advanced.
"I was inspired by long drives I've taken and trips to national parks, as well as by the subject matter -space! One of my favorite road trip memories is driving up the Pacific Coast Highway near Big Sur and pulling over to observe the stars. The visual spectacle in front of you, combined with being 'in the middle of nowhere,' definitely evokes some type of feeling," Diao said.
Such supermoon usually occur in cycles, lasting slightly over 13 months. Due to celestial mechanics, three supermoons have already taken place this year, and another is due on 9 September.