The Perseid meteor shower is one of the biggest annual events of its kind, and it’s coming soon to a sky near you.
The so-called “shooting stars” that you see fizzing brightly across the sky during the Perseid meteor shower are fragments of the Swift-Tuttle comet burning up as they enter the Earth’s atmosphere at high speed. Swift-Tuttle’s most recent fly-by was in 1992, with the next one not until 2125. Despite the lengthy orbit, the comet’s huge size — it’s about 16 miles (26 km) across — means that it has a dense debris trail, paving the way for a spectacular meteor shower.
The fragments begin streaking across the sky in late July, with the event peaking in the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday, August 12.
Although you would normally expect to see around 60 meteors per hour during the peak phase, NASA says that this year the brightness of the moon will impede the view somewhat, reducing the visible meteors to around 20 per hour.
The space agency adds that despite the reduced visibility, “the Perseids are rich in bright meteors and fireballs, so it will still be worth going out in the early morning to catch some of nature’s fireworks.”
So, how can you watch it? Well, you’re either going to have to stay up really late tonight or get up really early on Wednesday morning.
The Perseids are best viewed between about 2 a.m. your local time and dawn, with the best views obtained in locations with minimal light pollution.
NASA says if these hours are just too hard to handle, then not to worry. “You can go out after dark, around 9 p.m. local time, and see a few Perseids. Just know that you won’t see nearly as many as you would had you gone out during the early morning hours.”
If clouds threaten to spoil the show, you can always hit NASA TV, which will be livestreaming the Perseid meteor shower from 9 p.m. ET.
And if you’re a keen photographer and want to try your hand at capturing some of the meteors burning up in the night sky, check out this Digital Trends article telling you all you need to know.
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