perseid meteor shower, august 12 perseid
Nikolas Giakoumidis/AP

Perseid Meteor Shower Peaks Tonight

August 11, 2008 02:24 PM
by Lindsey Chapman
The early morning hours of August 12 will be the best time to see the Perseid Meteor Shower.

Watch the Sky

The annual Perseid Meteor Shower is expected to be at its best tonight. Look toward the "Double Star Cluster" of the constellation Perseus during the early morning hours.

The meteors from the Perseids are the debris left behind by the Swift-Tuttle comet, which was discovered in 1862. When Earth moves through the comet’s trail, the debris hits the atmosphere at approximately 130,000 miles per hour and burns up, leaving bright trails of light behind.

Meteor showers frequently occur in the winter, making the Perseid shower popular because stargazers don’t have to get cold if they want to watch. And while some meteor showers can be exciting one year and dull the next, the Perseids generally have a consistent number of meteorites. “This is the one we look forward to every year,” stated Mike Bakich, senior editor of Astronomy magazine.

A “very good” meteor shower consists of about one meteor per minute for one observer watching under a dark sky. When the Perseids peak, viewers can see between 60 and 100 meteors an hour, Bakich said.
This number is just an average, however. What viewers are more likely to see is a cluster of meteorites in close succession, accompanied by a lull of a few minutes or more.

The ideal time to see the annual Perseid Meteor Shower in 2008 will be around 7:00 a.m. EDT on August 12, according to columnist Joe Rao. If the idea of staying up late—or getting up early—isn’t appealing, the meteors might be visible earlier in the evening. However, moonlight may make them harder to see.

Some Perseids could be visible one to two weeks after the shower peaks, and “shooting stars” are often visible nearly any time throughout August.

Reference: Falling stars; astronomy


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