The Perseid meteor shower (also called the Perseids) greets stargazers each year from mid-July to late August. This season the shower will peak between Aug 11-12, based on the American Meteor Society (AMS) (opens in new tab).
The 2022 Perseids wont be quite as spectacular because they were in 2021, because of the full moon illuminating the sky.
Perseid meteor shower: Quick facts
When: July 14 to August 24
Peak: Aug. 11-12
Comet of origin: 109P/Swift-Tuttle
Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR): 100
(The amount of meteors an individual observer would see within an hour of peak activity with an obvious, dark sky and the radiant at the zenith).
The Perseids are due to Earth passing through debris items of ice and rock left out by Comet Swift-Tuttle which last passed near Earth in 1992. The Perseids peak when Earth passes through the densest and dustiest area on Aug. 11-12. Years without moonlight see higher rates of meteors each hour, and in outburst years (such as for example in 2016) the rate could be between 150-200 meteors one hour.
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On a far more normal year you will probably see around 100 meteors each hour at the shower’s peak, in accordance with NASA (opens in new tab).
This past year, the moon was only a thin crescent and didn’t obscure the view of the meteor shower too badly, however the moon’s glow is really a continuing concern for skywatchers searching for a clear view. Despite the fact that the Perseids are specially bright, moonlight could make viewing a little tricky. This season, the peak of the Perseids will undoubtedly be affected by the entire moon illuminating the sky.
An average Perseid meteoroid (that is what they’re called during space) moves at 133,200 mph (214,365 kph) when it hits Earth’s atmosphere (and they’re called meteors). The majority of the Perseids are tiny, concerning the size of a sand grain. Almost none of the fragments hit the bottom, but if one does, it’s called a meteorite.
Peak temperatures for Perseids are a lot more than 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,650 Celsius) as each fragment travels through the atmosphere and both compresses and heats the air before it. The majority of the fragments are visible if they are about 60 miles (97 kilometers) from the bottom.
What can cause the Perseid meteor shower?
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This beloved, annual sky spectacle is due to the comet Swift-Tuttle.
Swift-Tuttle was discovered independently by two astronomers, Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle, in 1862. When it last made a go by Earth in 1992, it had been too faint to be observed with the naked eye. Another pass, in 2126, will make it a naked-eye comet similar in brightness to the 1997 Hale-Bopp comet providing that predictions are correct.
Comet Swift-Tuttle may be the largest object recognized to repeatedly go by Earth; its nucleus is approximately 16 miles (26 kilometers) wide. It last passed near Earth during its orbit round the sun in 1992, and next time will undoubtedly be in 2126.
Once you sit back to view a meteor shower, you’re actually seeing the bits of comet debris heat up because they enter the atmosphere and burn in a bright burst of light, streaking a vivid path over the sky because they travel at 37 miles (59 kilometers) per second, in accordance with NASA.
Where is it possible to start to see the Perseid meteor shower?
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Perseus constellation position:
Right ascension: 3 hours
Declination: 45 degrees
Visible between: :Latitudes 90 and -35 degrees
Meteor showers are named following the constellation that the meteors may actually emanate. From Earth’s perspective, the Perseids may actually come approximately from the direction of the Northern Hemisphere constellation Perseus.
You can observe the Perseid meteor shower best in the Northern Hemisphere and right down to the mid-southern latitudes, and all you have to catch the show is darkness, somewhere comfortable to sit and some patience.
To get the Perseid meteor shower, it’s wise to consider the idea in the sky where they may actually originate from, that is referred to as the radiant. In accordance with NASA, the Perseids’ radiant is in the Perseus Constellation. Though Perseus isn’t easy and simple to get, it conveniently follows the brighter and much more distinctive constellation Cassiopeia over the night sky. The meteor shower gets its name from the constellation it radiates from, the constellation isn’t the foundation of the meteors.
To best start to see the Perseids, visit the darkest possible location and lean back and relax. Its not necessary any telescopes or binoculars because the secret would be to take in just as much sky as you possibly can and invite about 30 minutes for the eyes adjust fully to the dark.
If you would like more suggestions about how exactly to photograph the Persied meteor shower, have a look at our how exactly to photograph meteors and meteor showers guide and when you will need imaging gear, consider our best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography.
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When is the better time and energy to view the Perseid meteor shower?
The optimum time to consider meteors is in the pre-dawn hours. The meteors will peak between August 11-12, in accordance with AMS. In accordance with NASA, the Persieds will undoubtedly be active from July 14 to August 24.
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The peak viewing days are usually your very best shot to start to see the sky speckled with bright meteors. To start to see the meteors, research also to the north. Those in southern latitudes can look toward the northeast to see more meteors.
Skywatchers shopping for the Perseids may also be treated for some stray meteors from the southern delta Aquariid meteor shower which peaks in late July, in accordance with AMS. Although southern delta Aquariids are best viewed from the Southern Hemisphere, they are able to sometimes be noticeable to those in the mid-latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere.
Could Comet Swift-Tuttle collide with Earth?
An astronomer calculating Swift-Tuttle’s orbit once suggested that it might come dangerously near Earth in 2126 and perhaps collide with the earth. Further refinements, however, show that the comet won’t, in accordance with a primer by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.
Swift-Tuttle’s go by Earth in the entire year 3044 could take it inside a million miles of our world. That’s just over twice the length from the planet earth to the moon, making the comet very close in astronomical terms.
The uncertainty came because initial projections for Swift-Tuttle’s path through space originated from only 90 days of observations in the 1860s, once the comet was initially discovered, added the primer’s author, Sally Stephens.
In the 1970s, astronomers noted that the amount of annual Perseids meteors was increasing, suggesting that the comet would make an appearance soon. “Nonetheless it didn’t show, and soon afterward, Perseid meteor activity dropped sharply. Astronomers wondered if the comet had somehow come and gone unnoticed,” Stephens wrote.
Brian Marsden, who was simply an astronomer with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, suggested in 1973 that Swift-Tuttle may be exactly the same comet as you observed in 1737 by way of a Jesuit missionary in China.
Marsden suggested the comet would return in 1992, which it did, but its closest approach was 17 days faraway from his prediction. He continued tweaking his calculations. Although he initially predicted a possible collision in 2126, he examined the historical record and found observations of a comet in an identical track dating back to at the very least 188 A.D. allowing him to calculate the comet would pose no harm.
“His new calculations show Comet Swift-Tuttle will pass a cushty 15 million miles from Earth on its next visit to the inner solar system,” Stephens wrote.
If you are thinking about learning more about Comet Swift-Tuttle have a look at this interesting informative image entry by ESA (opens in new tab). The National Schools Observatory (opens in new tab) offers a great summary of meteor showers and how exactly to plan your meteor spotting. If you are searching for a nice kid-friendly introduction to meteor showers, NASA offers you covered (opens in new tab).
- Meteor Showers: An Annotated Catalog (The Patrick Moore Practical Astronomy Series) (opens in new tab)
- Lewis Swift: Comet Hunter (opens in new tab)
Sarah Lewin started writing for Space.com in June of 2015 as an employee Writer and became Associate Editor in 2019 . Her work has been featured by Scientific American, IEEE Spectrum, Quanta Magazine, Wired, The Scientist, Science Friday and WGBH’s Inside NOVA. Sarah comes with an MA from NYU’s Science, Health insurance and Environmental Reporting Program and an AB in mathematics from Brown University. You should definitely writing, reading or considering space, Sarah enjoys musical theatre and mathematical papercraft. She actually is currently Assistant News Editor at Scientific American. It is possible to follow her on Twitter @SarahExplains.