Annual Perseids meteor shower to peak early Sunday morning

You’ll have to get up pretty early in the morning to see one of the year’s best meteor showers at its peak this weekend.

August brings the height of the annual Perseid meteor shower, one of the most plentiful of the season with 50-100 meteors per hour at its peak, according to a NASA educational site that focuses on the solar system. The Perseids begin in mid-July and run until Sept. 1, but the peak of activity is expected to occur in the wee hours of Sunday morning.

“With swift and bright meteors, Perseids frequently leave long ‘wakes’ of light and color behind them as they streak through earth’s atmosphere,” the NASA post states. “Perseids are also known for their fireballs. Fireballs are larger explosions of light and color that can persist longer than an average meteor streak.”

The Perseids likely won’t be visible until the early morning hours on Sunday, however. The Perseids appear to emanate from the constellation Perseus, from which they take their name, and it won’t rise above the horizon until after 10 p.m. Perseus will still be very low in the sky at midnight. By 4 a.m., it will be visible near the center of the northeastern quadrant of the sky, and that could be the best time for viewing frequent meteor streaks.

“During the evening hours the radiant — the area of the sky where Perseid meteors shoot from — is located low in the northern sky,” according to a post by the American Meteor Society. “This is the worst time to try and view the shower for sheer numbers, as most of the activity will occur beyond your line of sight, being blocked by the horizon.”

Those that are visible then could be special, though, according to the AMS.

“The reason is that they just skim the upper regions of the atmosphere and will last much longer than Perseids seen during the morning hours,” AMS says. “Most of these ‘earth-grazing’ Perseids will be seen low in the east or west, traveling north to south. Occasionally one will pass overhead and will be unforgettable as you watch it shoot across the sky for several seconds. While these meteors are few, they are certainly worth the effort to try and catch.”

The Perseids don’t really come from the constellation Perseus. They are a debris trail from a comet through which the earth passes every summer.

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