Science fever is fun and educational. When a scientific event captures the hearts and minds of the media and the people, it can serve as inspiration to continue the scientific research that helps us understand our universe and ourselves.
But sometimes, science fever can go too far, getting people to believe scientific-sounding things that aren't true.
For example, science is on the minds of lots of people as we're less than two weeks away from an eclipse that will be annular (full) in many parts of the country.
As a result, the peak of the Perseids meteor shower occurring Saturday night is getting a lot of attention as well. The shower happens every year around the same time and peaks around the same time as well. The 2015 edition was particularly illuminating because the new moon kept the skies dark, allowing the shower to appear brighter than most years.
This year is not the case. The moon will obscure much of the light from any meteors, so it will be a tame shower at best for most observers watching with the naked eye.
But that hasn't stopped people from peddling false reports on social media.
Memes like the one above have circulated. There have also been fake news posts (which we will not link to in this story) that have fooled people into believing that Saturday night's shower is going to be one for the history books.
“No such thing is going to happen,” said Bill Cooke with NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office.
Cooke posted an entry on NASA’s blog about the false claims that Saturday night’s Perseid meteor shower will light up the sky unlike anything you’ve seen before.
This year, we are expecting enhanced rates of about 150 per hour or so, but the increased number will be cancelled out by the bright Moon, the light of which will wash out the fainter Perseids,” Cooke wrote. “A meteor every couple of minutes is good, and certainly worth going outside to look, but it is hardly the ‘brightest shower in human history.’”
The kind of meteor storm that some people are hoping for hasn't happened since the Leonid meteor storm of 1833. Neil Degrasse Tyson talked about it on an episode of Star Talk, in which he describes the reaction at the time where people saw so many "falling stars" that they thought that they were experiencing the Biblical apocalypse.
If you want to see something reliably bright, the Geminid meteor shower is expected to produce up to 50 meteors per hour, just like Saturday night's Perseid shower, but this one won't be obstructed by the light of the moon.
You can watch that shower at 2 a.m. (no matter where you are on Earth) on December 13 and 14.