8:00 AM | *This year’s Perseid meteor shower likely to be the best of the year…peaks during the weekend of August 11-12/12-13*
The annual Perseid meteor shower will peak this year on the weekend nights of August 11-12 (Saturday/Sunday) and August 12-13 (Sunday/Monday) and it’ll likely turn out to be the best meteor shower of the entire year. The Perseid meteor shower comes every August as the Earth passes through a cloud of dust that comes from Comet Swift-Tuttle as it approaches the sun. This year the moon will be very favorable for viewing as it’ll be very near new moon and it’ll set before the Perseid show gets underway after midnight.
This year the peak of the Perseid meteor shower should result in at least 60-70 meteors per hour, but twice those amounts are not out of the question given the very favorable phase of the moon (and weather permitting of course). Earth's gravity pulls in chunks of small rocks from Comet Swift-Tuttle comprised of iron-nickel, stone, and other minerals. These small rocks turn into bright balls of hot gas when they enter the Earth's atmosphere. As darkness falls, the meteors appear to come from the constellation Perseus, hence the name; although late in the evening, the meteors actually originate higher in the sky than the constellation.
It is estimated that Perseid meteoroids hit our atmosphere at about 132,000 miles per hour to produce the annual light show and this meteor shower is usually rich in “fireballs” because of the size of the parent comet. Comet Swift-Tuttle has a huge nucleus - about 26 kilometers in diameter - whereas most other comets are much smaller with nuclei only a few kilometers across. Typically, meteors are only the size of pebbles, some as small as a grain of sand, but Comet Swift-Tuttle produces a large number of meteoroids that are large enough to produce “fireballs”. In fact, the Perseid meteor shower is considered the “fireball champion” of all of the annual meteor showers.
The best time to look during the peak of the meteor shower from far away from city lights is between the hours of 11 PM and 5 AM on either weekend night (i.e., Saturday/Sunday and Sunday/Monday).
Meteorologist Paul Dorian