Perseid Meteors Pierce the August Sky

Perseid Meteor Shower, August 11, 2012

The Perseid meteor shower sprinkles the night sky with “shooting stars” in August, with the best viewing around the night of August 11.

The Perseids generally are one of the year’s best showers, with peak rates of several dozen meteors over a period of a few hours.

The meteors are bits of rocky debris left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle as it orbits the Sun. As Earth flies through the comet’s path, some of the bits of comet dust slam into the atmosphere at tens of thousands of miles per hour. They quickly vaporize, creating bright but brief streaks of light in the night sky.

The nights of August 10, 11, and 12 should provide good chances of seeing Perseid meteors, with the hours after midnight generally providing the best view.

The Moon is a thin crescent that doesn’t rise until the wee hours on the morning of August 12, so its light won’t do much to interfere with the show. The Moon will, however, form a beautiful display in the pre-dawn sky as it lines up between Jupiter and Venus, the brightest objects in the night sky after the Moon itself. Venus is well below the Moon at first light, with Jupiter above it.

Resources

StarDate episodes about Comet Swift-Tuttle

Swift Comets July 16, 2012 

Tuttle Comets July 17, 2012 

Comet Swift-Tuttle July 18, 2012

Meteor Showers Online

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