Our Northern Hemisphere’s night skies could not ask for a more impressive, annual meteor shower.
The Perseids occur because we are seeing debris left over from the super long trail of the comet Swift-Tuttle. This comet is the largest known object to repeatedly pass by Earth, being 16 miles wide!
As with all meteor showers, it does not necessarily mean that comet just whizzed by our home planet, since the last time Swift-Tuttle did this was in 1992 and won’t be again until 2126, but it does mean our home planet is passing through the debris, or long trail, each year.
The radiant point or apparent source of the meteors will be the Perseus constellation, and again, as with all meteor showers, you will see meteors from all over your sky. This screenshot of Stellarium shows Perseus rising above our north eastern horizon on August 1st, just after 1am. The screenshot below shows the last wee bit of night sky you could still see meteors, before 4:30am.
One small issue with this year’s Perseids. Whereas last year recorded the highest rate of seen meteors since the recording of such astronomical things, this year our sky will be seeing the waning gibbous moon near the meteor showers’ peak. This means we will have a bright moon casting more light than we’d really want for watching meteors.
Nonetheless, this is the most impressive meteor shower to be gazing for, so get out there these wonderful summer nights!
Ps. It’ll be one wonderful meteor shower after another at this point, so stay tuned!