Spectacular Perseid Meteor Showers Predicted For This Thursday And Friday


Word Count

540 words

Reading Level

Listen to Article

A multicolored, long Perseid meteor striking the sky just to the left of Milky Way (Photo Credit By Brocken Inaglory (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

There are few celestial events as reliable or as anticipated as the annual Perseid meteor showers. The shooting star show typically begins in mid-July and continues until the end of August. However, it is most visible around mid-August. According to astronomers, this year the best time to watch nature’s fireworks will be the evening of Thursday, Aug 11 and the early hours of Friday, Aug 12.

Most years this means being able to observe 50 to 100 shooting stars every hour. However, astronomers from the International Meteor Organization believe that this year we will experience less of a “shower” and more of an “outburst” of shooting stars. They predict that at its peak there may be as many as 200 meteors per hour! This means that even novice observers have a good chance of seeing them.

Comet Swift-Tuttle, the source of the annual Perseid meteor shower, is seen in this false color view captured by astronomer Jim Scotti of the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. The image was taken through a Spacewatch telescope at Kitt Peak on Nov. 24, 1992 during the comet's last close approach to Earth (Photo Credit: Jim Scotti, University of Arizona)

The best place to view them, of course, is a dark, vast open space that is far from city lights. Experts also recommend settling down in an area where you can observe the entire dome of the sky and watching the stars with your bare eyes because telescopes and binoculars could restrict the view. Also, be patient! It will take 10 – 15 minutes for your eyes to get accustomed to the dark skies and then maybe as long, or even longer, to spot a meteor or two. Finally, keep your fingers crossed and hope for clear skies. For if Thursday night happens to be foggy, you are out of luck!

Though called shooting stars, meteors have nothing to do with stars. They are remains of cosmic dust and dirt left behind by comets traveling through the area. When the debris collide with the Earth’s atmosphere at high speeds, it burns, resulting in a flash or what we call a “shooting star.” The Perseids, which get their name because they appear to spurt from the constellation Perseus, are debris left behind by the comet Swift-Tuttle each time it passes by Earth during its 132-135-year orbit. While it will not visit again until 2126, the comet has left behind plenty of fragments from its last visit in 1992. This means that Perseid meteors will continue to shower upon us every August, like clockwork.

The 2010 Perseids captured by ESO’s Very Large Telescope (Photo Credit: ESO/S. Guisard CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Fortunately, since the comet dust lies in the path of Earth’s orbit around the sun, it is encountered annually at the same time. While the Perseids are visible from most parts of the globe, thanks to the path of Swift-Tuttle's orbit, the best views are reserved for the residents of the Northern Hemisphere.

In addition to being the most reliable of the over 30 meteor showers visible from Earth every year, the Perseids are also known for sending out a large number of fireballs — meteors as bright, or even brighter, than Jupiter and Venus. NASA scientists, who have nicknamed the Perseids "fireball champions” believe that the bright meteors are a result of Swift-Tuttle's large (26 km diameter) nucleus. They speculate that it leaves behind hundreds of meteoroids, many of which are large enough to produce fireballs. So be sure to mark your calendars and see if you can catch one or two of the spectacular shooting stars – Don’t forget to make a wish as you do!

Resources: Space.com, cnn.com, wikipedia.org

Cite Article
Learn Keywords in this Article
  • THE GREATESTalmost 6 years
    This is so cool
    • alexist
      alexistalmost 6 years
      I actually saw this meteor while I was at the beach
      • chloee kastaninalmost 6 years
        that is supper cool that i almost read it one more time or even more then one more time mabe two more times .
        • btyalmost 6 years
          i love the robot that a student has
          • zoealmost 6 years
            • ajhottstuffalmost 6 years
              this is so amazing I can not wait for the next one I am such a nerd when it comes to this.
              • frost18
                frost18almost 6 years
                Missed it but I think its really cool
                • Youlikeclockworalmost 6 years
                  that will be cool like clockwork is middle name of mine, can not wait for more1
                  • fun philipalmost 6 years
                    cool i love it
                    • Trump16almost 6 years