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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

2014 Perseids Forecast
This year the Perseids will peak during the night and early morning hours of 12 and 13 of August. Unfortunately, a nearly full moon (Supermoon) will make it difficult to view the year's best meteor shower. However, you may still be able to see a few fireballs.

Watch a live stream of the meteor shower starting tonight (12 Aug.) at 6:30 p.m. PDT (9:30 p.m. EDT or 13 Aug., 1:30 UTC).

Fast Facts

  • Comet of Origin: 109P/Swift-Tuttle
  • Radiant: Constellation Perseus
  • Active: 17 July -- 24 Aug. 2014
  • Peak Activity: 12-13 Aug. 2014
  • 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 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: 12 Aug 2014