Earth is entering a stream of debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle, source of the annual Perseid meteor shower. International observers are now reporting more than a dozen Perseids per hour, a number that will increase as the shower reaches its peak on August 12-13. Full moonlight will reduce visibility on peak night, but not enough to completely spoil the show - especially when the ISS is scheduled to make an appearance among the meteors. (SpaceWeather)
The meteor shower is already underway. Earth is passing through a broad stream of debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle, and specks of comet dust are hitting the top of Earth's atmosphere at 140,000 mph. These disintegrating meteors stream out of the constellation Perseus - hence the name "Perseids." According to the International Meteor Organization, worldwide observers now are counting more than a dozen Perseids per hour with more to come on August 12-13 when Earth passes near the heart of the debris stream.
Experts note that moonlight and meteor showers don't mix. Indeed, the great number of faint Perseids that observers would normally count in a dark year will be invisible in 2011 with the Moon glaring overhead. On the bright side - no pun intended - any Perseid that does manage to pierce the glare is likely to be a fireball. These are caused by relatively big pieces of debris disintegrating in flashes too bright to be subdued. It's not unusual to see at least a few Perseid shadow-casters on peak night.
Perseid meteors can appear any time Perseus is above the horizon, between about 10 pm and sunrise. The best time to look is during the hours before dawn especially on Saturday morning, August 13th. The full Moon will be relatively low, and the meteor rate should be peaking at that time.
Before dawn is also the time of the ISS. All week long and into the weekend, the International Space Station will be making a series of early-morning flybys over the United States. The massive spacecraft glides silently among the stars, shining so brightly that moonlight and even city lights have little affect on its visibility. You simply cannot miss it if you know when to look. (ScienceNASA)
Check NASA's ISS Tracker for local flyby times.
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