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Meteors and planets light up weekend skies


Andrew Fazekas, astronomer
August 11, 2012 — Skywatchers are gearing up for the Perseid meteor shower this weekend.


Skywatchers can expect anywhere from 20 to 80 shooting stars per hour
Skywatchers can expect anywhere from 20 to 80 shooting stars per hour

Peaking during the evening of August 11 and at dawn on August 12 and 13, skywatchers can expect anywhere from 20 to 80 shooting stars per hour -- depending on local weather conditions.

While the Perseids are best seen from the dark countryside, people in the suburbs will also get a chance to see bright meteors and fireballs.

Like all meteor showers, the Perseids get their name from the constellation they appear to radiate out from in the sky.

In this case Perseus rises in the northeast after midnight. Observers are advised to face this direction during the shower's peak times.

Like clockwork, every mid-August Earth slams into a giant cloud of debris left behind by the comet Swift-Tuttle. Hitting the atmosphere at speeds of 160,000 km per hour the sand grain-sized meteors burn up and produce a streak of light that lasts only a fraction of a second.

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