August 12

Perseid meteors composite image Perseids composite, seen Aug. 12-13, 2011. Concentric circles are star trails.
Photo Credits: NASA/MSFC/Meteoroid Environment Office

Today in Science

Perseid Meteor Showers Peak

The annual Perseid meteor shower (July 17–Aug. 24) peaks over the weekend with dozens of meteors an hour shooting through the sky of the northern hemisphere. This year, the shower should be particularly impressive, given its timing near the new moon. Watching from a dark field, away from city and street level lights, after midnight will give you the best viewing conditions.

Every August, the earth passes through the orbit of the comet Swift-Tuttle and picks up some of the rock, ice, and dust debris, called meteroids, from its tail. As these rocks hit the earth's atmosphere they vaporize, creating a visible trail through the air. This is what's called a meteor or a shooting star. (Usually meteors disintegrate as they fall through the atmosphere, but if they hit earth, they're then called meteorites.)

The Perseid meteor shower is so named because it appears brightest in the constellation Perseus.

You can then learn more about meteors with these Science NetLinks resources:

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