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Perseid meteor shower to light up the sky


Andrew Yee, astronomer
August 5, 2012 — The Perseid meteor shower is the most reliable meteor display of the year, and it will be lighting up the sky in mid-August.


You'll be able to see about 60 meteors per hour during the Perseid meteor shower
You'll be able to see about 60 meteors per hour during the Perseid meteor shower

The Perseid meteor shower happens every year around mid-August.

This year's peak nights will be during the early morning hours of August 12th and 13th. During the shower you'll be able to see up to 60 meteors per hour.

What is a meteor shower?

A meteor is a tiny dust particle that a comet sheds. These dust particles remain along the orbit of the comet for many years.

When the Earth comes close to - or plows through - the comet dust debris, dust particles fall into the Earth's atmosphere and burn up completely.

We see the break up of the dust particles in streaks of light that we call meteors, which are also commonly referred to as "shooting stars" -- although this term is technically inaccurate.

Comet dust particles are typically smaller than the size of a pea and burn up in the Earth's atmosphere about 70 km above the surface.

Why is the meteor shower called Perseid?

If you watch the meteor streaks carefully, it appears as though you could trace them back to a point in the sky where they originate.

In reality this is an optical illusion, because all meteors travel in a parallel direction in space.

The meteor shower is called "Perseid" because its apparent point of origin, or the radiant point, is in the constellation Perseus.

You won't need binoculars or a telescope to see the meteor showers
You won't need binoculars or a telescope to see the meteor showers

What's the best time to view the 2012 Perseid meteor shower?

The best time to view the meteor shower is when its radiant point appears to be high in the sky, during the early morning hours.

The shower is forecasted to peak on August 12th, but you'll be able to catch the show on August 13th as well.

You'll also be able to see a few Perseid meteor showers a few days before and after this time.

How can I view the meteor showers?

You won't need binoculars or a telescope to see the meteors. In fact, your eyes will be the best viewing instruments!

Try to choose a viewing location with little direct light in the surrounding.

Make yourself comfortable and look towards the sky, directly opposite from the the full moon.

Summer nights can get cool, so bring along an extra blanket.

And don't forget your insect repellent!


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