Perseids Meteor Shower Peaks This Weekend

A live broadcast of the meteor shower from a camera in Huntsville, AL (if our weather cooperates!) will be available on NASA TV and the NASA Meteor Watch Facebook starting around 9 p.m. Eastern time (8 p.m. CT) and continuing until the early hours of August 13.

The Perseid meteor shower is here! Perseid meteors, caused by debris left behind by the Comet Swift-Tuttle, began streaking across the skies in late July and will peak on August 12.

The Perseid meteor shower is often considered to be one of the best meteor showers of the year due to its high rates and pleasant late-summer temperatures. This year’s shower peak, however, has the added bonus of dark skies courtesy of an early-setting crescent Moon. Combine these ideal observing conditions and high rates (an average of 60 meteors per hour at the peak) with the fact that the best nights for viewing – August 11 to 12 and August 12 to 13 – occur on a weekend and you have a recipe for successfully viewing some celestial fireworks!

A Perseid meteor over Daytona Beach, FL.
A Perseid meteor over Daytona Beach, FL. Perseids are known for being bright and fast, traveling 132,000 mph. Image Credit: NASA/MEO.

When Should I Look?

Make plans to stay up late or wake up early the nights of August 11 to 12 and August 12 to 13. The Perseids are best seen between about 2 a.m. your local time and dawn.

If those hours seem daunting, not to worry! You can go out after dark, around 9 p.m. local time, and see Perseids. Just know that you won’t see nearly as many as you would had you gone out during the early morning hours.

How can you see the Perseids if the weather doesn’t cooperate where you are? A live broadcast of the meteor shower from a camera in Huntsville, AL (if our weather cooperates!) will be available on the NASA Meteor Watch Facebook starting around 8 p.m. CT and continuing until the early hours of August 13. Meteor videos recorded by the NASA All Sky Fireball Network are also available each morning; to identify Perseids in these videos, look for events labeled “PER.”

Why Are They Called Perseids?

All meteors associated with one particular shower have similar orbits, and they all appear to come from the same place in the sky, called the radiant. Meteor showers take their name from the location of the radiant. The Perseid radiant is in the constellation Perseus. Similarly, the Geminid meteor shower, observed each December, is named for a radiant in the constellation Gemini.

Most of the meteors seen in this composite are Perseids.
Most of the meteors seen in this composite are Perseids. Notice how they all appear to be streaking from the same direction? The Perseids appear to radiate from a point in the constellation Perseus. Image Credit: NASA/MEO.

How to Observe Perseids

If it’s not cloudy, pick an observing spot away from bright lights, lay on your back, and look up! You don’t need any special equipment to view the Perseids – just your eyes.  (Note that telescopes or binoculars are not recommended.) Meteors can generally be seen all over the sky so don’t worry about looking in any particular direction.

While observing this month, not all of the meteors you’ll see belong to the Perseid meteor shower. Some are sporadic background meteors. And some are from other weaker showers also active right now, including the Alpha Capricornids, the Southern Delta Aquariids, and the Kappa Cygnids. How can you tell if you’ve seen a Perseid? If you see a meteor try to trace it backwards. If you end up in the constellation Perseus, there’s a good chance you’ve seen a Perseid. If finding constellations isn’t your forte, then note that Perseids are some of the fastest meteors you’ll see!

Pro tip: Remember to let your eyes become adjusted to the dark (it takes about 30 minutes) – you’ll see more meteors that way. Try to stay off of your phone too, as looking at devices with bright screens will negatively affect your night vision and hence reduce the number of meteors you see!

Happy viewing!

Look Up! Perseid Meteor Shower Peaks Aug. 11-12

Make plans now to stay up late or set the alarm early next week to see a cosmic display of “shooting stars” light up the night sky. Known for it’s fast and bright meteors, the annual Perseid meteor shower is anticipated to be one of the best potential meteor viewing opportunities this year.

The Perseids show up every year in August when Earth ventures through trails of debris left behind by an ancient comet. This year, Earth may be in for a closer encounter than usual with the comet trails that result in meteor shower, setting the stage for a spectacular display.

“Forecasters are predicting a Perseid outburst this year with double normal rates on the night of Aug. 11-12,” said Bill Cooke with NASA’s Meteoroid Environments Office in Huntsville, Alabama. “Under perfect conditions, rates could soar to 200 meteors per hour.”

An outburst is a meteor shower with more meteors than usual. The last Perseid outburst occurred in 2009.

How to Watch the Perseids

The best way to see the Perseids is to go outside between midnight and dawn on the morning of Aug. 12. Allow about 45 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark. Lie on your back and look straight up. Increased activity may also be seen on Aug. 12-13.

For stargazers experiencing cloudy or light-polluted skies, a live broadcast of the Perseid meteor shower will be available via Ustream overnight on Aug. 11-12 and Aug. 13-14, beginning at 10 p.m. EDT.

Read more about the Perseids here.

An outburst of Perseid meteors lights up the sky in August 2009 in this time-lapse image. Stargazers expect a similar outburst during next week’s Perseid meteor shower, which will be visible overnight on Aug. 11 and 12. Credits: NASA/JPL
An outburst of Perseid meteors lights up the sky in August 2009 in this time-lapse image. Stargazers expect a similar outburst during next week’s Perseid meteor shower, which will be visible overnight on Aug. 11 and 12.
Credits: NASA/JPL

Perseid Fireball Over New Mexico

This Perseid fireball was observed by the NASA All Sky Fireball Network in the skies over New Mexico on the morning of August 12.

ev_20150812_101552A_06A

LIve Chat and Ustream! 2014 Perseid Meteor Shower

The annual Perseid meteor shower will peak in the skies over Earth on the night of Aug. 12-13. Despite a bright moon, there should still be a good show from this prolific shower. Projected peak rates are 30-40 meteors/hour. Much of the world can see Perseids any time after full dark, with peak viewing projected early on the morning of Aug. 13 (3-4 a.m., your local time).

Dr. Bill Cooke, Rhiannon Blaauw and Danielle Moser of the NASA Meteoroid Environment Office will take your Perseid questions via live web chat. The chat module will appear on this page on Aug. 12 at 11 p.m. EDT (Aug. 13, 3:00 UTC). A Ustream view of the skies over Marshall Space Flight Center will be embedded on this page on Aug. 12 at 9:30 p.m. EDT (Aug. 13, 1:30 UTC).

The map below shows global viewing for the Perseids. Click on the map for a larger view. (NASA/MSFC/Danielle Moser)

perseids-viewing-2014

 

From our Meteoroid Environment Office here at Marshall Space Flight Center, courtesy of Danielle Moser, showing the speeds of several meteor showers.  (NASA/MSFC/Danielle Moser)

ShowerGauge2

 

Perseids Meteor Shower Lights Up the Sky

Marshall scientist Bill Cooke and his team, from the Meteoroid Environment Office at Marshall Space Flight Center, watched the sky during the peak of the Perseid meteor shower. The team used the Marshall meteor cameras the evening of August 12 and into the early morning August 13 to capture images of the Perseids.

 

 
Meteor over Tullahoma, Tennessee 
(Courtesy: NASA/MSFC/Meteoroid Environment Office)
 

The Perseids have been observed for about 2,000 years. The source of the annual meteor shower is the debris trail left behind comet Swift-Tuttle. Each year in August, the Earth passes through a cloud of the comets debris. These bits of ice and dust burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere. Most of the Perseid meteors that we observe now were ejected from Swift-Tuttle about 1,000 years ago.

Cooke and his team answered questions about the Perseids during an Up All Night with NASA web chat. You can read a transcript of the web chat (PDF, 550 Kb) to learn more about the Perseids: what creates them, their composition, how old they are, how fast they travel and other fascinating facts.

NASA Catches First Glimpse of This Year's Perseid Meteor Shower

On the night of July 26, allsky cameras of the NASA fireball network detected three Perseid meteors in the skies above Tennessee and Alabama. The first seen by the cameras this year, these meteors are the “advance guard” of the Perseid meteor shower, which will peak on the night of Aug. 12.

 
A bright Perseid meteor crosses the sky over Huntsville, Ala. on July 26, 2011
Credit: NASA/MSFC/Meteoroid Environment Office
 

Want to watch the Perseids with NASA astronomy experts? Make plans to join astronomer Bill Cooke and his team from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center for an “up all night” Web chat on the night of Aug. 12 and into the early morning of Aug. 13. You can ask your questions and also view a live Ustream view of the Perseids in the skies over Huntsville, Ala.

If you or another astronomy group is planning a live Web view of the Perseids, please leave us a comment and let us know — we’ll feature a link to your live Perseids Web stream!

More information about the chat is located here:  https://www.nasa.gov/connect/chat/perseids_2011.html