The Perseids captured in a 30-second exposure on August 12, 2016. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

The Perseid Meteor Shower Peaks Tonight–10 Things You Need To know

You can see the Perseids even without observational tools.

Each year in August, stargazers in the Northern Hemisphere get the chance to observe one of the most fascinating meteor showers – the Perseids. Perhaps you already got your chance to see some shooting stars since the beginning of the astronomical event in July but if not… tonight will be the best chance to spot some falling meteorites.


Everything you need to know about the Perseids and when you can see them

What are the Perseids?

The Perseids are a meteor shower that appears annually in August from the direction of the constellation Perseus. It occurs when the Earth encounters particles of ice, dust, and rocks from the Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, thrown into interstellar space when approaching the Sun.

Most powerful meteor shower

One of the most powerful meteor showers was recorded in 1993, a year after the comet approached Earth. In August 1993, observers from central Europe recorded between 200 and 500 meteors per hour, significantly more than the average observed number of meteors.

2020’s Perseids

For example, last year’s Perseids averaged around 100 meteors per hour while the traditional average value stands between 50-70. Unfortunately, this year’s shower will not be as grand and the estimates suggest that we can expect about 42 meteors per hour on average.

Speed

The smallest dust particles, colliding with the Earth, leave an indelible impression on observers on the planet’s surface. The Perseid meteors, flying at a speed of about 60 kilometers per second, collide with the upper atmosphere at altitudes of about 80 kilometers.

Constellation

When observing during the period of the maximum flow, it will seem to us that the trails of meteors come from the region of the most beautiful constellation of the northern hemisphere of the sky – the constellation Perseus. You will find it in the northeast, focusing on the famous constellation Cassiopeia.

Better astronomical conditions

While the average number of meteors per hour will be lower this year, the astronomical conditions for observing the Perseids will be better. The Moon has just passed the new moon phase on August 8, which means that it will not interfere with observations on the night of the maximum flow.

Bright shooting stars

The Perseids are famous not only for a large number of meteors per night but also for the presence of bright and beautiful “shooting stars” in their composition, often leaving a trail after the passage. Very bright meteors are often observed – fireballs comparable in brightness to a full moon.

How to observe correctly?

The peak, which will happen tonight (August 12-13) will be visible from the entire Northern Hemisphere. The Perseids should be observed lying down, with your feet better positioned to the northeast, in the direction of the radiant (an imaginary point in the sky where meteors are emitted).

Best locations for observations?

Needless to say, the most suitable locations for observations are in the mountain or anywhere away from the big city. Not that it will not be possible to spot a shooting star from your balcony but your chances will increase if you choose a more isolated location, away from the city lights and pollution.

How long until it ends?

Even if you miss the astronomical spectacle tonight, you can observe the Perseids until about August 18th. It is pointless to mention, however, that the peak of the meteor shower tonight will be well worth seeing.


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Sources:

Bartels, M. (2021, August 11). Perseid Meteor shower of 2021, likely the best of the year, is peaking now! Space.com.
Harbaugh, J. (2021, July 30). The Perseids are on the rise! NASA.
McClure, B. (2021, August 11). Perseid Meteor shower 2021 reaches its peak. EarthSky.

Written by Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. My experience as a freelance writer began in 2018 but I have been part of the Curiosmos family since mid-2020. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.

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