The Perseids Meteor Shower happens every year in August when Earth passes through the long trail that is left behind by the Comet Swift-Tuttle. But though the shower is an annual affair, stargazers are in for a real treat this time with scientists predicting a more spectacular light show than they have seen in recent years.
Earth will be passing through the trail from July 17 to August 24, but the shower will reach its peak as the Earth encounters the densest area of the comet’s trail. This phenomenon will happen between Thursday night and Friday morning when people will witness the heaviest shower within the shortest period of time. According to Dr. Bill Cooke, a meteorologist at NASA, the Perseids will be in “outburst” mode this year, which means that they will appear at twice the usual rate seen every year. “This year, instead of seeing about 80 Perseids per hour, the rate could top 150 and even approach 200 meteors per hour,” says Dr. Cooke. Normally, the shower sees around 80 to 100 meteors every hour.
The Perseids get their name from the fact that they appear to originate from the Perseus constellation. The Greek term “Perseides” applies to the descendants of Perseus, who was the son of Zeus. The Perseids, which are reputed to be among the most consistently occurring meteor showers in the world, happen when our planet encounters specks of debris floating around in the solar system that was left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle. The comet orbits the sun once every 133 years. The size of the debris can range from being similar to a grain of sand to much larger ones, resembling a cherry pit or a silver dollar. People can see them with their naked eye as they heat up and are vaporized while passing through the earth’s atmosphere.
The reason why this week’s shower will be so spectacular is because Jupiter’s intense gravity has brought together at least three clusters of all the debris left by the comet into Earth’s path spanning through its earlier visitations from the years 1079, 1479, and 1862. The last time a Perseids shower of similar magnitude occurred was in 2009.
As always, the best way to experience the Perseids shower in all its flaming glory would be to go to an area with a clear, unobstructed view of the night sky. Though streetlights can play havoc on the spectacle in most crowded cities, rooftops on highrises could offer a decent enough viewing option. Experts say that the best time to watch the phenomenon is before dawn on Friday, though the weather and lack of adequate darkness can play spoilsports.
In case that happens, people can catch the live streaming of the shower that are being hosted by NASA and Slooh. But it might be worth a try to get out and find someplace really suitable that will allow you to witness the shower with your own eyes.