Sky watchers are in for some magical nights thanks to annual Perseids meteor shower as the Earth passes through the path of Comet Swift-Tuttle from July 17 to August 26.
The shower’s peak is expected around August 11, 12 and 13, though the bright moon may drown many Perseids from view.
But you can still plan to watch for Perseid meteors in early August this year and be prepared for moonlight at the peak.
The phenomenon will climax on the night of August 11- 12 and the following night August 12-13.
The meteor showers are best observed after midnight looking towards the northeast, in dark place away from town lights, and are visible with the naked eye. They pick up a speed of up to 59,000 km a second.
A meteor shower is a spike in the number of meteors or “shooting stars” that streak through the night sky.
Most meteor showers are spawned by comets. As a comet orbits the Sun it sheds an icy, dusty debris stream along its orbit. If Earth travels through this stream, we will see a meteor shower. Although the meteors can appear anywhere in the sky, if you trace their paths, the meteors in each shower appear to “rain” into the sky from the same region.
Meteor showers are named for the constellation that coincides with this region in the sky, a spot known as the radiant. The Perseid meteor shower is so named because meteors appear to fall from a point in the constellation Perseus.
Shooting stars” and “falling stars” are both names that describe meteors — streaks of light across the night sky caused by small bits of interplanetary rock and debris called meteoroids vaporising high in Earth’s upper atmosphere. Travelling at tens of thousands of kilometres an hour, meteoroids quickly ignite from the searing friction with the atmosphere. Almost all are destroyed in this process; the rare few that survive and hit the ground are known as meteorites.
When a meteor appears, it seems to “shoot” quickly across the sky, and its small size and intense brightness might make you think it is a star.
Swift-Tuttle was discovered independently by two astronomers, Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle, in 1862. When it last made a pass by Earth in 1992, it was too faint to be seen with the naked eye.