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NASA shutterbug snapped a perseid on its way down to Earth

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Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Tuesday, August 12, 2014, 10:07 AM - We're sure they don't mean to, but NASA has a habit of making earthbound photographers feel really, really small.

Take the two big astronomical events this month: The super moon, which peaked on Sunday, and the Perseid meteor shower, which peaks tonight.

The super moon was probably the most-photographed thing in the world over the weekend, when it was full, but Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev outdid everyone with a shot of the moon from the International Space Station as it was setting over the Earth.

And as for the Perseids, if you're hoping to get that one-in-a-million shot, you're about three years too late:

That tiny streak, a little to the left of the solar panel, is a Perseid meteor, shot from above by NASA astronaut Ron Garan on August 13, 2011, at an altitude of around 380 km.

It was NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day on Sunday, resurrected ahead of the Perseids' peak this week, when up to 100 fireballs an hour will be visible before dawn in places where the skies are clear.

The popular meteor shower originates from dust left behind by comet Swift-Tuttle as it traverses the solar system. Those streaks of light happen when the particles tear through our atmosphere at a rate of 60 km per second, burning incandescently. 

The trouble is, this year's the lightshow will be lessened in some areas due to the lingering effects of the weekend super moon.

The proper term for those is "perigee moon," since our satellite is circling the Earth at the closest point of its orbit. When full, it appeared 14 per cent larger and up to 30 per cent brighter, and while it's now waning, its still bright enough for the lunar light to make it harder to see the Perseids in parts of the world.

It would not seem that NASA has that problem.

SUPER MOON VERSUS PERSEIDS: Watch below for a detailed explanation of both these phenomena.

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