From Popular Mechanics
As Earth zips along its orbit, it slides through the dusty trails of asteroids and comets. These are what we’ve come to know as meteor showers. There are nine main meteor showers that can be witnessed around the world throughout the year and are named after the constellations across which they streak.
Meteoroids, which burn up in the atmosphere, can be as small as a dust grain or as large as a small asteroid. Once they hit Earth’s surface, they’re called meteorites. On most nights, astronomy buffs will witness a handful of meteors, but during a meteor shower there could be as many as 140 meteors visible per hour.
The Next Meteor Shower: The Perseids
Summer is marked by the Perseid meteor shower, which is active from July 17 to August 26 but peak during the late evening and early hours of August 11-12. Thanks to mild weather and high meteor count, the Perseids are a favorite meteor shower for many astronomy enthusiasts.
Unfortunately, due to the current phase of the moon, fewer meteors will be visible this year. Viewers in the Northern hemisphere (and as far south as 51 degrees south) can expect to see, at peak, around 15 t0 20 meteors in the sky each hour. (Typically, viewers can expect more than 60 meteors per hour.) Peak is expected between 2 a.m. and dawn.
These bright meteors typically emanate from the Perseus constellation. The dust trails that cause many meteor showers are fed by comets. We can thank Comet Swift-Tuttle for this dazzling celestial display.
Fogust got you down? If your view of the sky becomes socked in by clouds, you can still catch the cosmic fireworks via the NASA Meteor Watch Facebook page. The live stream is hosted by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and will begin at 9 p.m. EDT today and continue until dawn on August 12.
Where Do Meteor Showers Come From?
As comets and asteroids approach the sun, ice melts and they begin to shed dust and rock. Asteroids, however, stop shedding material as the sail away from the sun. In December 2019, astronomers revealed at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco, California, that another famed meteor shower, the Geminids, are also sourced by an asteroid, called 3200 Phaethon.
All meteor showers seem to originate from one region in the sky. This is usually the constellation they are named after. For example, the Perseids originate in the constellation Perseus and the Orionids originate in the constellation Orion. The Quadrantids, are named for an obsolete constellation no longer officially recognized by the International Astronomical Union called “Quadrans Muralis.”
When Are All the Other Meteor Showers?
Active: Dec. 27 – Jan. 10
Peak: Jan. 3-4
Active: April 16 – April 28
Peak: April 21-22
Active: April 19 – May 28
Peak: May 6-7
Southern delta Aquariids
Active: July 12 – Aug. 23
Peak: July 29-30
Active: July 17 – Aug. 26
Peak: Aug. 11-12
Active: Oct. 2 – Nov. 7
Peak: Oct. 21-22
Active: Nov. 6 – Nov. 30
Peak: Nov. 16-17
Active: Dec. 4 – Dec. 17
Peak: Dec. 13-14
Active: Dec. 17 – Dec. 26
Peak: Dec. 22-23
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