Back in the fall of 1992, comet Swift-Tuttle swept past the Sun, leaving behind a trail of dust right in Earth’s orbit. Those particles left behind each time it swings by is what creates the Perseids Meteor Shower, perhaps the most popular meteor shower of the year - and this year, it’ll be a great one, so it’s kind of a big deal.
This year, the shower will peak on the morning of August 12th at around 2:00 AM Local Time with 60 - 70 meteors per hour.
When you sit back to watch a meteor shower, you're actually seeing the pieces of comet debris heat up as they enter the atmosphere and burn up in a bright burst of light, streaking a vivid path across the sky as they travel at 37 miles (59 kilometers) per second. When they're in space, the pieces of debris are called "meteoroids," but when they reach Earth's atmosphere, they become "meteors." If a piece makes it all the way down to Earth without burning up, it graduates to "meteorite." Most of the meteors in the Perseids are much too small for that - about the size of a grain of sand by the time they hit the ground.
The key to watching is "to take in as much sky as possible," according to NASA meteor export Bill Cooke. Find a dark area and prepare to sit outside for a few hours. It takes about thirty minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark, and the longer you wait outside, the more you'll see. A rate of 60 - 70 meteors per hour, for instance, means around one meteor per minute, including faint streaks along with bright, fireball-generating ones.
Assuming there are clear skies, you should be able to see meteors all night long. But if you can’t escape your city lights, or think you might encounter an issue in your viewing location, here’s how to stargaze from more urban areas.
Apart from the meteors, observant fans should be able to spot Mars (visible until about 4:00 AM LT) and Saturn (visible until about 2:00 AM LT); Venus and Jupiter both set before the Perseids are best viewed 9:30 PM LT and 11:00 PM LT, respectively.
Some skywatchers plan to camp out to see the Perseid meteor shower, but at the very least, viewers should bring something comfortable to sit on, some snacks, and maybe some bug spray. All that’s left next is to just relax and look upward for the celestial show.
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Hank, Green. "New Results from Philae, and the Perseids Meteor Shower!" SciShow Space, YouTube. 6 Aug, 2015. Web video.
Lewin, Sarah. "Perseid Meteor Shower 2018: When, Where, and How to See It This Week." Space.com. 7 Aug, 2018. Web article.
Citation: Rovira, Lia N. "Perseid Meteor Shower 2018: When, Where, and How to See It This Week." SkyFeed. 8 Aug, 2018. Web article.