This week brings the annual return of the Perseids, one of the most stunning meteor showers of the year, visible from just about anywhere.
WHAT: The height of the Perseid shower comes every August, because that’s the time our planet passes through a certain debris path.
The Perseids are created by the tiny remnants left behind by comet Swift-Tuttle. The Earth passes through this material once a year, creating a spectacular show as the cometary particles burn up in the atmosphere [Discovery News].
WHERE: Like the Orionid meteors, which come around in October, the Perseids are so named because of the constellation from which they appear to originate.
If you trace the Perseid meteor trails backward, they meet within the constellation Perseus the Hero; this is how the shower got its name [Astronomy].
WHEN: Tonight (Wednesday) through Friday night we’ll see the height of Perseid visibility once the sky reaches full darkness, from 11 p.m. to midnight wherever you might be until the first light of dawn. On Friday night the crescent moon will set before twilight ends, giving stargazers a dark sky to gaze at.
Swift-Tuttle’s debris zone is so wide, Earth spends weeks inside it. Indeed, we are in the outskirts now, and sky watchers are already reporting a trickle of late-night Perseids. The trickle could turn into a torrent between August 11th and 13th when Earth passes through the heart of the debris trail [NASA Science News].
Indeed, the opening shot of the Perseids appeared as a bright fireball over Alabama on August 3.
WHAT YOU NEED: Your two eyes, and a place away from the city lights. For more cool Perseid details, check out Astronomy’s coverage.
80beats: Found on a Martian Field: A Whomping Big Meteorite
80beats: Study: 20-Million-Year Meteorite Shower Turned Earth Warm & Wet
80beats: Scientists Pick Up the Pieces (Literally) of an Asteroid Spotted Last October
80beats: Perseid Meteor Shower Should Dazzle Despite a Bright Moon (2009 edition)
Image: flickr / aresauburn