Basic Astronomy

Perseids meteor shower

Perseids is a high intensity meteor shower. It can produce about 50-80 meteors per hour at its peak in a dark night. In 2016, the rate can be double and can reach up to 200 meteors per hour. The shower runs annually from 17th July to 24th August and usually it peak on 12-13th August. Meteors seems to radiate from the constellation Perseus.

Perseid Meteor Shower

The orbit of Earth pass through the dense dusty debris made by comet Swift-Tuttle in July/August and each year dust and small stony particles in the debris enter Earth atmosphere and create meteor shower. Swift-Tuttle was discovered in 1862.

How can you watch the show?

You don't need any telescope or binoculars to watch a meteor shower. The meteors of the Perseids shower appear to fall from the constellation Perseus. Meteors will appear all over the sky but they will look like they are originated from constellation Perseus. You should watch towards Perseus when the sky is darkest in your area. The best viewing times are usually about midnight to 2 am. It will be ideal observation condition when there will be no Moon in the sky.

As always, if you can go far from the city, you will see better view of sky due to less light pollution. You may like to lie on a blanket in a park or rooftop to enjoy the show. It will also help you to have access of full view of the sky.

Map of Perseid Meteor Shower
Sky in the direction of Perseid meteor shower (Based on NASA illustration).

What is Perseids?

Comet Swift-Tuttle is the largest celestial object which repeatedly pass by Earth. The size of its nucleus is about 26 km (16 mile). Last time it passed near Earth in 1972 during its orbit around the Sun. Next time it will pass Earth in 2126. Every year Earth passes through the dust and debris left by Swift-Turret which causes annual Perseid meteor shower in Earth. This is called Perseid meteor shower because it seems like all meteors are falling from the constellation Perseus.

When you are seeing the meteor shower, you're actually seeing the pieces of comet debris burning up as they enter the Earth atmosphere and make a bright trail of light. This meteors travel at 59 km (37 mile) per second while hitting Earth atmosphere. The pieces of debris are known as "meteoroids" when they are in space but when they reach Earth's atmosphere, they're called "meteors". If a piece makes it all the way down to Earth without burning up, it is becomes "meteorite". Most of the meteors in the Perseids are too small to reach Earth surface as they're about the size of a grain of sand.







Related story

Meteor shower calendar

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