The Perseids Meteor Shower will make their peak appearance this year August 11-13 with August 12th being the most visible.  We’ve been seeing some showers since July 17th and they will continue for 10 days or so after the peak but in reduced numbers.  No special equipment is needed to watch the Perseids.

Meteor showers come from leftover particles of comets and asteroids.  Comets leave a dusty trail behind them and every year the earth passes through that trail.  When the leftover bits collide with the earth’s atmosphere the result is fiery, colorful streaks in the sky.  Meteor showers to us.

The pieces of space debris that interact with our atmosphere to create the Perseids come from  comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. Swift-Tuttle takes 133 years to orbit the sun once. It was Giovanni Schiaparelli who realized in 1865 that this comet was the source of the Perseids. Comet Swift-Tuttle last visited the inner solar system in 1992.  Comet Swift-Tuttle was discovered in 1862 by Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle. Swift-Tuttle is a large comet: its nucleus is 16 miles (26 kilometers) across. (This is almost twice the size of the object hypothesized to have led to the demise of the dinosaurs.)  source: solarsystem.nasa.gov

Why is it called Perseid?
Meteor showers are named for the constellation nearest – in this case Perseus – and help the night sky watcher identify where to find the shower.  This means their radiant – where they appear to come from – is Perseus.  Where is Perseus?

Map of Perseus in the winter night sky.

In the winter sky of the Northern Hemisphere, Perseus can be seen flanked by Taurus, Aries, Andromeda and Cassiopeia.

(Image: © NULL)

To see the Perseids
Bright, full moons make meteor watching more difficult.  This year shouldn’t be too much of a problem.  To get the most of your experience, go to the darkest spot you can find, lean back and look up so you can see as much of the north night sky as you can.   The best time is pre-dawn but you can still see a few meteors between midnight and dawn.  source: space.com

Happy sky watching!