Eight months ago, we delighted in the beauty of the Orionid meteor shower show. This month, our skies will be lit up with yet another celestial spectacle: the Perseid meteor shower, the shower NASA calls the 'best of the year'.
Our guide will tell you everything you need to know about this ethereal event including when you can watch it as well as tips for taking pro-quality pictures!
Why is it considered the best of the year?
"The Perseid meteor shower is the best of the year," said Jane Houston Jones from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. According to the space agency, the annual meteor shower, also called the summer Perseids, stands out from most meteor showers by having a very broad peak of high meteor rates.
In addition, according to The Weather Network, the event is one of only three yearly meteor showers where up to 100 meteors per hour can be seen. The Perseids also feature more bright fireball meteors than any other showers.
When can I see it?
The shower runs from July 17 to August 24, however, it peaks from 4 pm on August 12 until 4 am on August 13 Eastern Daylight Time. During that optimum period you could see between 60 and 100 meteors per hour.
Where can I see it?
The Perseids can be witnessed in the northern sky whenever the meteors enter Earth's atmosphere throughout the day. However, they can be seen clearest after sunset.
Although, stargazers in mid-northern latitudes will be privy to the best views, according to NASA, anyone can see the light show. "Remember, you don't have to look directly at the constellation to see them. You can look anywhere you want to-even directly overhead," explained Jones.
Timeanddate.com provides tables indicating when the showers are active and even gives some nice tips on how to best watch the performance. One key tip is to try to get away from city lights.
Can I photograph the showers?
Capturing the fleeting light show requires some luck as meteors quickly strike through the starry skies. However, with a little planning and some patience, you can get some truly memorable images.
If you're brave enough to give it a try, make sure to follow these key tips by NASA.
Where do the Perseids come from?
Meteor showers are caused when meteoroids, who were once part of a comet or asteroid, start hitting Earth's atmosphere in streams. The summer Perseids originate from the comet Swift-Tuttle.
The showers are named after the constellation Perseus because the direction from which they come in the sky lies in the same radiant as Perseus. It is important to note that the constellation for which a meteor shower is named is not the source of the meteors, it is simply in the same direction.
We hope you enjoyed our guide and that it will prove useful in your search for celestial entertainment! If you want some more information on the Perseids, make sure to watch NASA's video on the showers narrated by Jones.