August is a thrilling time of the year for astronomers and enthusiasts alike. This month, the Perseid meteor shower is expected to reach its annual peak, meaning that you’ll get a front-row seat to a spectacular night sky lit up by hundreds of shooting stars. Here’s all you need to know to prepare for this year’s event.
What is the Perseid meteor shower?
Every year like clockwork, the earth passes through the Swift-Tuttle comet’s tail, a cloud of space dust emitted from the comet itself that forms a cloud in its wake. When that happens, burning debris from the comet is released into the earth’s atmosphere. The visual representation of that process is a series of bright shooting stars visible after sundown — the Perseids.
The name of this meteor shower comes from the constellation Perseus where the meteors are said to originate. This meteor shower is one of the most highly anticipated all year, as you can see a whopping 150 shooting stars in a single hour.
When to see it
The Perseid meteor shower is visible from mid-July to late August. This year’s peak will be on August 11, 12, and 13, so mark your calendar and hope for a clear few nights. During this time the moon will be in its last quarter phase during the shower which makes viewing a bit harder than usual. Still, astronomers predict that you will still be able to spot between 40 and 50 meteors per hour on a peak night — as long as clouds don’t obstruct the view in your area.