The Perseid meteor shower will peak on August 11, 12, and 13, and a Total Solar Eclipse will be visible in the United States from coast to coast on August 21.
In astronomy, there’s nothing quite like a bright meteor streaking across the glittering canopy of a moonless night sky. The unexpected flash of light adds a dash of magic to an ordinary walk under the stars.
New research by NASA has just identified the most magical nights of all.
“We have found that one meteor shower produces more fireballs than any other,” explains Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office. “It’s the Perseid meteor shower, which peaks on August 11th, 12th and 13th.”
Using a network of meteor cameras distributed across the southern USA, Cooke’s team has been tracking fireball activity since 2008, and they have built up a database of hundreds of events to analyze. The data point to the Perseids as the ‘fireball champion’ of annual meteor showers.
A fireball is a very bright meteor, at least as bright as the planets Jupiter or Venus. They can be seen on any given night as random meteoroids strike Earth’s upper atmosphere. One fireball every few hours is not unusual. Fireballs become more numerous, however, when Earth is passing through the debris stream of a comet. That’s what will happen this August.
Get away from city lights. While fireballs can be seen from urban areas, the much greater number of faint Perseids is visible only from the countryside.
In total, the Perseid meteor rate from dark-sky sites could top 100 per hour.
That’s a lot of magic. Enjoy the show.
Clip credit: NASA
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