Get ready for one of the best light shows of the year this week, as the Earth’s orbit around the Sun crosses through the Perseid meteor shower. The Perseids are an annual meteor shower named after the constellation Perseus, which sits in the area of the sky where the shower appears. The shower’s peak occurs around August 12th each year.
The meteors seen during the shower are created by the dusty trail left behind by the comet Swift-Tuttle as it orbits the Sun. The particles from this trail burn up in our atmosphere, becoming meteors, also known as “falling” or “shooting” stars.
The Perseids shower will be visible from through August 22nd, peaking this coming Sunday, August 12th. The meteors can be seen with the naked eye. The best time to observe any meteor shower is during the early morning hours, between 2 and 5 a.m., but meteors will be visible any time after dusk, with a sharp upturn in activity around 11 p.m. Generally, observers can expect to see as many as 60 meteors per hour during this shower.
To see the Perseids, look for the constellation Perseus in the northeast. It sits near Cassiopeia, which looks like a large letter “W.”
This year’s peak activity falls during a waning crescent Moon, which should make for excellent viewing, weather permitting.
The Perseid shower is one of the most anticipated each year, not just because of its high output, but also because Perseid meteors are among the fastest.