The Perseids, the shooting stars of summer, arrive in the skies

The Perseids, the shooting stars of summer, arrive in the skies

The Perseids

Already visible from 14 July, the most beautiful and brightest meteor shower of the year will reach its peak after the night of San Lorenzo

Photo: Craig Letourneau | Pixabay The spring and summer night skies, so far, have given us the Eta Acquaridi shooting stars, the so-called strawberry moon and even a supermoon eclipse: the best show, however, is about to arrive now. Punctual as every year, the Perseids are arriving, considered by NASA to be the most abundant and bright meteor shower of the year. Visible from 14 July, they will reach their peak in the first half of August, precisely on 11, 12 and 13 August: they are the shooting stars of the night of San Lorenzo.

What are they the Perseids

Falling stars, tears of San Lorenzo: the Perseids have very suggestive names, but which differ from actual reality. They are in fact a swarm of meteorites, space debris resulting from the disintegration of the nucleus of comet 109P / Swift-Tuttle. Comet Swift-Tuttle, discovered in 1862 by Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle, like all comets, is a celestial body consisting mainly of ice-covered rocks, which comes from a remote region of the Solar System and orbits the Sun. For making a full circle takes 133 years and the last time it entered the inner solar system was in 1992.

When comets like Swift-Tuttle approach the Sun, they leave behind a trail of debris, meteorites. Every year the Earth passes through this debris and the smallest fragments come into contact with the atmosphere of our planet, igniting due to friction and the speed of impact. Here, in our eyes, the meteorites that disintegrate create luminous streaks in the night skies, the shooting stars. In addition to having a large number of very bright meteorites traveling at high speed, the Perseids are characterized by the presence of fireballs (literally fireballs). Fireballs are real bursts of light and color that are larger and can persist in the sky longer than an average meteor trail, as they arise from larger debris. Thanks to this feature, fireballs are also brighter than classic meteor trails, with apparent magnitude values ​​greater than -3 (for example, the brightness of Venus is -4).

When and how to see them

The Perseids are one of the most abundant meteor showers there is (it is estimated that about 50-100 meteorites are observable per hour) and are visible in summer, allowing enthusiasts to observe them comfortably at open air. The point in the sky from which the Perseids seem to originate, and from which they take their name, is the constellation of Perseus, but this must not be deceiving.

As already explained, the constellation has nothing to do with the meteorites, but it only serves those who want to observe this show to easily identify the part of the sky where to observe the meteor shower. The Perseids are best observed in the northern hemisphere during the hours preceding sunrise, although it is sometimes possible to see light trails even starting at 10 pm. This year the swarm will be visible as early as July 14, it will reach its peak of greatest visibility on the nights of 11, 12 and 13 August and can be observed until 24 August. We have a month to prepare. So, eyes (or telescopes) pointed upwards - preferably in areas with little light pollution - towards the North-East, to find the constellation of Perseus, between Andromeda and the pentagon of Auriga. Once you've found the right spot, you just need to enjoy the show.

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The Perseids start this week, and NASA calls it the best meteor shower of the year. Here's how to watch.

A Perseid meteor streaks across the sky above Inspiration Point in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, on August 12, 2016. Ethan Miller/Getty Image

NASA calls the annual Perseids meteor shower the best of the year, thanks to the many bright meteors that streak across the night sky.

This year, the Perseids shower is predicted to peak on August 11 and 12, according to EarthSky. On those nights, people could see up to 100 meteors per hour as Earth plows through a cloud of cometary debris. That dwarfs the rate of meteors during all other annual showers.

But the Perseids are active for about 40 days every summer - between July 14 and August 24 this year. So starting this week, there should be some meteor activity each night starting shortly after twilight.

The Perseid meteors are known both for their epic 'fireballs' - explosions of light and color that last longer than those from typical meteors - and for the long trails they leave behind.

Here's how to see the meteor shower.

No need for binoculars or telescopes

The Perseids are especially visible in the Northern Hemisphere but can be glimpsed across the globe. To maximize your chances of seeing them, find a dark spot with a clear view of a cloudless, open sky. The area should be as far away from light sources as possible.

The shower can be seen starting around 9 p.m. local time. That's just after twilight, when you can expect long-tailed meteors lower in the sky. The best time to see the show, however, is around 2 a.m., since more meteors are visible in the pre-dawn hours.

You can spot the Perseids with your naked eye - in fact, NASA recommends against using telescopes or binoculars, since these instruments only show a small part of the sky at a time and meteors can come from any direction.

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It helps to set aside half an hour or so to let your eyes adjust to the dark, NASA says. Avoid looking at your phone because the bright light from the screen can mess with your ability to see more faint meteors.

The Perseids meteor shower peaks around mid-August every year, but last year, the moon was in its last quarter phase and rose just before the peak of the shower. So its brightness reduced the number of visible meteors.

This year however, the crescent moon will only be about 13% illuminated by the sun on August 11 and 12. That should make it easier to see more meteors.

Where the Perseids come from

The annual shower gets its name from the constellation Perseus, which is where the meteors appear to originate in the sky.

But Perseus isn't really the source of the celestial light show. Instead, the Perseids happen when Earth's orbit takes it through a lane of space debris left behind by the comet Swift-Tuttle. Bits of rocky debris the sizes of sand grains and peas slam into our atmosphere at 37 miles per second (about 133,000 miles per hour). As they burn up, they leave fiery streaks across the night sky.

It takes more than a month for Earth to pass through Swift-Tuttle's wake, which is why the Perseids last so long. The meteor shower's peak comes when our planet moves through the densest part of the comet's debris trail.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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