The Perseid meteor shower is set to peak early in the morning of Friday August 12th and experts are predicting double the number of meteors for this year’s shower. The meteors are small bits of dust and debris that become super-heated as they collide with the earth’s atmosphere. These particles are from a trail of debris that was shed from the comet Swift-Tuttle. Swift-Tuttle orbits the sun once every 133 years. When the comet approaches the heat of the sun it leaves a trail of small particles. Every year from around July 17- August 24 the earth passes through this trail of debris called the Perseid cloud. The earth reaches the densest part of the cloud around August 12th each year. These small particles travel at 37 miles per second and produce a burst of light 50 miles above the earth. The meteors are sometimes small and dim and other times long and bright, depending on the size of the particle. Experts are predicting the earth will pass through a more dense stream of particles which could result in greater than normal meteors for 2016. But really there is no way to tell. You’ll just have to go see for yourself in the early morning hours of Friday, August 12th. No special equipment is needed. Just throw down some blankets or recline in a lawn chair, look up and enjoy the show. The meteors can appear anywhere in the sky, but look to the east after midnight and look for the constellation Perseus, the namesake and radiant point for the shower. And if clouds are blocking your view, you should be able to see meteors any night after the 12th through August 24th. Happy hunting!
Michael E. Palmer is a writer and photographer based in Alabama.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org