Here come the Perseids
Saturday, August 10, 2013, 9:03 PM -
The Perseid meteor shower happens every year around mid-August. This year's peak days will be on August 11 and 12.
"On Aug. 11 and 12, 2013, the annual Perseid meteor shower will peak, filling the sky with streaks of light, commonly known as shooting stars," NASA says.
During the shower you'll be able to see up to 60 meteors per hour.
What is a meteor shower?
A meteor is a tiny dust particle that a comet sheds. These dust particles remain along the orbit of the comet for many years.
When the Earth comes close to, or plows through, the comet dust debris, dust particles fall into the Earth's atmosphere and burn up completely. We see the break up of the dust particles in streaks of light that we call meteors, which are also commonly referred to as "shooting stars."
"Comet dust particles are typically smaller than the size of a pea and burn up in the Earth's atmosphere about 70 km above the surface," explains astronomer Andrew Yee.
According to NASA, the big showers like the Perseids, and later the Leonids in November, are caused when Earth and its atmosphere travels through a region of the sky filled with left over debris lost by a particular comet.
"In the case of the Perseids, the small fragments were ripped of the tail of comet Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the sun once every 130 years," NASA says.
The best time to view the meteor shower is when its radiant point appears to be high in the sky, during the early morning hours between 11 pm and dawn.
Astronomers say you'll also be able to see a few Perseid meteor showers a few days before and after the peak times.
How can I view the meteor showers?
You won't need binoculars or a telescope to see the meteors.
"In fact, your eyes will be the best viewing instruments," says Yee. "Try to choose a viewing location with little direct light in the surrounding. Make yourself comfortable and look towards the sky."
Summer nights can get cool, so bring along an extra blanket and don't forget your insect repellent!
Here come the Perseids: tons of interplanetary dust due at Earth Aug. 11-12. http://t.co/R6aA9vkYY8— NASA (@NASA) August 8, 2013