Shortly after the sun goes down on Tuesday evening you’ll want to gather your kids or special someone, grab a blanket, and watch the skies as the Perseid meteor shower will put on a show to the delight of amateur and professional stargazers alike.
The Perseids which arrive each summer are famous for their fireballs – meteors with long, streaking tails. This year they will reach a peak on Tuesday, August 11, and go all night into early morning Wednesday. On average you will be able to catch a few dozen meteors an hour and as many as a hundred, which beats out most other meteor showers. Of course, you’ll want to find a place free of light pollution to be able to see them best.
While Tuesday evening is the peak of the showers they will still show up with less fanfare through August 24th.
The Perseids are the cosmic fragments from the Comet Swift-Tuttle and the reason they are “fireballs” is because they enter the earth’s atmosphere at an astounding 37 miles per hour and burn up before they hit the ground. In rare instances, some of the slightly larger ones will make it to ground, and if you are lucky you can find one.
Perseids earned their name because they appear to come from the constellation Perseus.
Sky & Telescope photo.