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Perseid meteor shower: year’s greatest meteor show peaks on August 12 and 13

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The peak of this year's Perseid meteor shower is just around the corner, forecasted during the overnight hours of August 12 and 13 in the absence of any or much moonlight.

Perseids originate in Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1862 by Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle. This is a large comet with estimated size of nucleus about 26 km (16 miles).

This is one of the most plentiful showers, with 50 – 100 shooting stars seen per hour, visible from all over the northern hemisphere.

This meteor shower is known for its very fast and bright meteors which leave long wakes of light and color as they streak through the atmosphere. Fireballs, larger explosions of light and color that can persist longer than an average meteor streak, are also associated with this shower and you can expect an increase in fireball events around its peak.

The thin crescent moon will be no match for this year's bright Perseids, so be prepared for a great show.

The Perseids radiant and adjacent constellations. The radiant – the point in the sky from which the Perseids appear to come from – is the constellation Perseus. The constellation of Perseus is also where we get the name for the shower: Perseids. Image credit: Science@NASA.

Astronomers with the Royal Astronomical Society expect there will be at least one meteor every few minutes this year. NASA made a forecast of up to 100 meteors per hour. French astronomer Jeremie Vaubaillon further predicted there could be a brief outburst at about 18:40 UTC.

To watch the show, one should go to a darker area, far from city or street lights that could blur the view and face north-east for best viewing. Within 30 minutes, one should get used to the dark night view of the sky and enjoy the shower.

Featured image: A perseid meteor streaks across a star-encrusted and cloud-scattered sky. Credit: Jimmy Westlake.

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