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Perseids
Perseid Meteor/A perseid meteor streaks across a star-encrusted and cloud-scattered sky.
A perseid meteor streaks across a star-encrusted and cloud-scattered sky. Image Credit: Jimmy Westlake

2015 Perseids Forecast
August's Perseid meteor shower peaks just after midnight on a moonless mid-August night. It should put on a great show this year.

 
Follow the Action
NASA TV Coverage: 12-13 August from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. EDT
Facebook Perseids Event Page
Science@NASA: The Perseids
More on Comet Swift-Tuttle: The Source of Perseid Meteors
What's Up - August 2015

A good number of meteors should be visible near Perseus every night from late July through August 24. However, you'll see fewer meteors before and after the peak. Look towards the familiar constellations Cassiopeia and Perseus in the northeast. They rise soon after sunset, but you'll want to wait til they are higher in the sky to see the most meteors. The best meteor watching hour is 4 a.m. Eastern or 1 a.m. Pacific time on the morning of August 13, when up to 100 meteors per hour may be visible from a dark sky.

Fast Facts

  • Comet of Origin: 109P/Swift-Tuttle
  • Radiant: Constellation Perseus
  • Active: 17 July -- 24 Aug. 2015
  • Peak Activity: 12-13 Aug. 2015
  • Peak Activity Meteor Count: Up to 100 meteors per hour
  • Meteor Velocity: 59 km (37 miles) per second

About the Meteor Shower
The Perseids, which peak during mid-August, are considered to be the best meteor shower of the year. With very fast and bright meteors, Perseids frequently leave long "wakes" of light and color behind them as they streak through the Earth's atmosphere. The Perseids are one of the most plentiful showers (50-100 meteors seen per hour) and occurs with warm summer nighttime weather, allowing sky watchers to easily view the shower.

Perseids are also known for their fireballs. Fireballs are larger explosions of light and color that can persist longer than an average meteor streak. This is due to the fact that fireballs originate from larger particles of cometary material. Fireballs are also brighter, with magnitudes brighter than -3.

Viewing Tips
The Perseids are best viewed in the Northern Hemisphere during the pre-dawn hours, though at times it is possible to view meteors from this shower as early as 10:00 p.m.. Find an area well away from city or street lights. Come prepared with a sleeping bag, blanket or lawn chair. Lie flat on your back with your feet facing northeast and look up, taking in as much of the sky as possible After about 30 minutes in the dark, your eyes will adapt and you will begin to see meteors. Be patient -- the show will last until dawn, so you have plenty of time to catch a glimpse.

The Perseids radiant and adjacent constellations.
The Perseids radiant and adjacent constellations.

Where Do Meteors Come From?
Meteors come from leftover comet particles and bits from broken asteroids. When comets come around the sun, they leave a dusty trail behind them. Every year the Earth passes through these debris trails, which allows the bits to collide with our atmosphere where they disintegrate to create fiery and colorful streaks in the sky.

The Comet
The pieces of space debris that interact with our atmosphere to create the Perseids originate from comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. Swift-Tuttle takes 133 years to orbit the sun once. It was Giovanni Schiaparelli who realized in 1865 that this comet was the source of the Perseids. Comet Swift-Tuttle last visited the inner solar system in 1992.

Comet Swift-Tuttle was discovered in 1862 by Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle. Swift-Tuttle is a large comet -- its nucleus is 26 km (16 miles) across. (That is more than twice the size of the object hypothesized to have led to the demise of the dinosaurs.)

The Radiant
Their radiant -- the point in the sky from which the Perseids appear to come from -- is the constellation Perseus. The constellation of Perseus is also where we get the name for the shower: Perseids. Note: The constellation for which a meteor shower is named only serves to aid viewers in determining which shower they are viewing on a given night. The constellation is not the source of the meteors.

Determine Meteor Shower Activity for Where You Live
http://leonid.arc.nasa.gov/estimator.html

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Last Updated: 11 Aug 2015