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What You Need to Know About the Perseid Meteor Shower

Aug 02, 2016 04:04 AM EDT
The Annual Perseid Meteor Shower
The annual Perseid meteor shower earned the interest of experts and the public with its fascinating display of shooting stars.
(Photo : Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Despite earning the title of the most active meteor shower, and a fascinating one at that, a lot of people still don't know about the annual Perseid meteor shower. Some mistakenly refer to the shower as a UFO sighting lighting the night sky. But the annual Perseid meteor shower is made up of scattered comet parts.

For the non-trained eye, the meteor shower could, at first, really appear intimidating, an apparition of lighting the night sky. It is expected to reach it brightest mid-August this year. But to be able to fully enjoy the celestial show of mesmerizing shooting stars, it is important to understand the phenomena.

The Persied meteor shower occurs every year at almost the same time. This is because, during this time each year, the Earth passes through the debris of comet Swift-Tulle. Comet Swift-Tulle also orbits the Sun and debris is scattered once the Sun melted away some of its parts. The debris then becomes shooting stars that lit up the sky when they hit the Earth's atmosphere creating the glow that can travel up to 37 miles per second.

"Next, we move into the August Perseids, which is perhaps the most popular meteor shower of all," Bill Cooke, a meteor expert said in an interview with "This year, they will be in what we call 'outburst' - their rates will double, because we're running into more material left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle," Cooke added.

This year, skywatchers can expect as much as 200 meteors per hour and the best time to watch is from Aug. 11 to Aug.13 until the shower finishes on Aug. 24. This is also the reason why this year, it seems like more people witnessed the shower even before its peak. Shooting stars appear brighter and more "spectacular."  "A lot of those meteors will be pretty bright," Peter Brown, a professor with the Meteor Physics Group said in an interview.

The Perseid meteor shower is believed to have originated from the constellation Perseus; meteor showers are typically named after the constellation where it came from. Although the comet and the meteor shower is a fascinating view, some scientists and astronomers think that being an object that constantly orbits near the Earth, there is the possibility of the two bodies colliding in the future.


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