It's that time of year again when you have the chance to comfortably experience the passage of planet Earth through debris trails left over by Comet Swift-Tuttle.
Perseids are considered one of the best meteor showers. They occur every year between July 17 and August 24 and tend to peak around August 9 to 13. This year, the shower peaks on the evening of August 12 and the morning of August 13.
With very fast and bright meteors, Perseids frequently leave long "wakes" of light and color behind them as they streak through Earth's atmosphere. They are one of the most plentiful showers (50 – 100 meteors seen per hour) and occur with warm summer nighttime weather, allowing sky watchers to easily view them.
Perseids are also known for their fireballs – larger explosions of light and color that can persist longer than an average meteor streak. This is due to the fact that fireballs originate from larger particles of cometary material. Fireballs are also brighter, with apparent magnitudes greater than -3.
They are best viewed in the Northern Hemisphere during the pre-dawn hours, though at times it is possible to view meteors from this shower as early as 22:00 LT.
The pieces of space debris that interact with our atmosphere to create the Perseids originate from comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, discovered in 1862 by Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle. This is a large comet, with the nucleus 26 km (16 miles) across.
It takes it 133 years to orbit the Sun once and it last visited the inner solar system in 1992. The next time will be in 2126.
In 2019, Perseids will be washed out by a nearly-full moon, allowing observers just 10 – 15 meteors per hour.
This, however, doesn't mean you can't enjoy it as it can take just one to make a life-long memory.
Featured image: Blue Streak. Credit: Jason Jenkins
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