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Watch the Perseids Peak This Week

Summer’s stunning meteor shower is sure to please stargazers

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smithsonian.com

Don't forget to look up — this week, hundreds of flying meteors will fill Earth’s night skies. For stargazers, August’s Perseid meteor shower typically does not disappoint. And it's projected to be particularly awesome this year, the BBC reports.

If you didn’t catch them in the early hours of this morning, don't fret: meteors should be visible in the night sky this week in both Earth’s northern and southern hemispheres, according to Bruce McLure at EarthSky. Skies will remain fairly dark (optimal for meteor shower viewing) because the new moon appears on August 14.

The Perseids are essentially comet debris, explains McLure. Every summer, Earth’s orbit takes it through a stream of dust and debris left in the wake of Comet Swift Tuttle, which passed by in 1992. When big chunks of ice and rock hit Earth’s atmosphere at around 130,000 miles per hour, they light up and put on quite a show. When Earth hits the biggest concentration of dust, the meteors peak.

A few meteors can be seen in early evening, but the show really picks up for U.S. viewers after midnight and carries on until dawn. Most of the meteors concentrate around the constellation Perseus (hence the name). Due to this year's extra-dark sky, McLure estimates that on a peak night (August 12 or 13) stargazers might see 50 meteors each hour — that's one piece of sparkly astronomical eye candy every 1.2 minutes.

About Helen Thompson
Helen Thompson

Helen Thompson writes about science and culture for Smithsonian. She's previously written for NPR, National Geographic News, Nature and others.

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