Perseids Meteor Shower Peaks Tonight; Don’t Miss This Spectacular Sight!

Credit:  NASA/Bill Ingalls.

In this 30-second exposure, a meteor streaks across the sky during the annual Perseids meteor shower Friday, August 12, 2016, in Spruce Knob, West Virginia. Credit:  NASA/Bill Ingalls.

Every August, Earth bears witness to one of the largest meteor showers, the Perseids. On July 26, NASA confirmed the first sighting of Perseid activity this summer and predicts that the Perseids will reach peak activity tonight. The Perseid meteor shower is a spectacle to watch, with meteors manifesting as streaks of light across the night sky. It is named for the constellation the meteors seem to be radiating from — Perseus.

In general, meteor showers result from debris that is derived from either comets or disrupted asteroids. In the case of the Perseids, their yearly appearance is due to Earth passing through a debris field left behind by the comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. The comet, named after its discoverers Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle, is estimated to be 26 kilometers wide and takes 133 years to orbit the Sun. Three years after its discovery in 1862, Giovanni Schiaparelli concluded that the comet’s debris caused the Perseids.

The best chance to see the Perseids this year will be tonight, August 11, and tomorrow, August 12, during the darkest time of the night. For optimal viewing, avoid the light pollution of urban areas, and let your eyes adjust to the dark for up to thirty minutes. Skywatchers in dark places in the Northern Hemisphere could see up to 40 meteors per hour, while those in cities or the Southern Hemisphere might see fewer. If you live in a city or where the Perseids are not visible, such as below 30° south latitude, NASA will be livestreaming the meteor shower from the Meteoroid Environmental Office at Marshall Space Flight Center on social media tonight from 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. CDT. READ MORE