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Friday, September 24, 2021

Why does the Perseid meteor shower happen every year, how to watch it tonight

The Perseid meteor shower takes place every year between July and August. It is caused by a trail of debris from a giant comet called 109P/Swift-Tuttle.

By: Science Desk | Kochi |
August 11, 2021 6:52:27 pm
perseids3Astronomer Fred Bruenjes recorded a series of many 30-second exposures spanning about six hours on the night of Aug. 11 and early morning of Aug. 12, 2004 using a wide angle lens. Combining those frames which captured meteor flashes, he produced this dramatic view of the Perseids of summer. (Fred Bruenjes via NASA)

If you live away from the city’s lights and pollution, you are in for a treat tonight from the Perseid meteor shower. The visibility of the meteor shower will be high late in the night around 2 am, and you can see as many as 60 to 100 meteors every hour.

The Perseid meteor shower takes place every year between July and August. It is caused by a trail of debris from a giant comet called 109P/Swift-Tuttle. The comet has an oblong orbit and takes about 133 years to orbit the Sun. Every year, between July 17 and August 24, Earth crosses the orbit of Swift-Tuttle, which is filled with years of debris from the comet. When these pieces smash with our Earth’s atmosphere at high speeds, they burn and light up the sky causing, the Perseid meteor shower. According to NASA, the meteor velocity is 59 km/second.

No special equipment or binoculars are needed and you can watch the showers till dawn. The human eye can take about 20-30 minutes to adjust to the darkness, so step out early to enjoy the show. Tonight, the moon is in the waxing crescent phase, so its light won’t be a big hindrance in seeing the shower. If clouds play spoilsport and block your view, you can catch the live broadcast of the meteor shower from a camera at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. It is available on the NASA Meteor Watch Facebook page.

Trivia: In Greek mythology, Perseus was a demi-god, the son of Zeus and Danaë. “It is said that the Perseid shower commemorates the time when Zeus visited Danaë, the mother of Perseus, in a shower of gold,” earthsky.com notes.

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