Looking Up: Pull Up A Chair, It's Time For The Perseids!

Aug 12, 2019

This week on Looking Up Hal reminds us it's time once again for the Perseid meteor shower.

This astronaut photograph, taken from the International Space Station while over China, provides the unusual perspective of looking down on a meteor as it passes through the atmosphere. The image was taken on August 13, 2011. Provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center.
Credit Expedition 28 crew - ISS / nasa.gov

It’s time to revisit one of the best meteor showers of the year, the Perseids. Every mid-August the debris left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle gets smacked into by the Earth as we orbit the Sun.

Some years, like last year, are particularly spectacular due to the Moon not interfering too much. Unfortunately, this year the Moon will be pretty close to full during the meteor shower, so you will only see the brightest of the shooting stars.

The Perseids can generate upwards of 100 meteors per hour under dark skies, but the debris trail we run into every August is particularly rich in  swift, bright meteors as well as a fair number that leave a glowing trail in the sky for a few seconds, and some that are fireballs, the brightest of meteors. So even with a bright Moon, I suggest you spend some time outdoors tonight and in the coming few nights, as you may well see some remarkable objects zooming across our sky. While the peak of the shower is August 12th, a few days on either side can still result in upwards of 80 meteors per hour, though the Moon will drown out the dimmer ones.

They will seem to come from, or radiate from, the constellation Perseus, in the northern sky. So for the best look, lie back and watch the night sky, looking toward the north, and watch one of nature’s greatest shows pass overhead.

If you’d like to take a closer look at the Perseids, or any of the other wonderful and amazing things in the sky, please visit csastro.org for a link to information on our monthly meetings and our free public star parties.