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Now is good time to see Perseid meteor shower as it shoots across sky

(AP Photo)

Meteor showers come and go, but one that remains on the minds of many is the annual Perseid meteor shower.

The Perseids are one of the oldest of all these type of events and many have fond memories of the Perseids from summer vacation trips to dark and peaceful locations.

Get set for some fun for the 2020 return of this great event in nature.

The Perseid meteor shower rains down on Earth from late July to well into Aug. 20.

The back story on the meteor shower is also very interesting too.

As with all meteor showers, the source of all this activity, or “shooting stars,” are comets!

Comets are thought to be the remains of the creation of the solar system and orbit the sun, in a distant region known as the Oort cloud.

This cloud surrounds the sun at distances of many billions of miles from us.

Every so often, the hand of gravity of our sun, helps to pull some of this material in towards the sun.

The comets travel at great speeds and produce large amounts of material out of the dust tail, like small beach sand to larger pebble sized objects.

Simply, the objects that you see shooting over the night sky are these small bits of space debris.

The Perseids happen to be one of the meteor showers which can produce a large amount of this type of material.

Perseids are cometary debris from the Comet 109P/ Swift-Tuttle, discovered back on July 16, 1862, by astronomers Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle.

The comet looks like this.

Comet Swift-Tuttle orbits the sun once every 133 years and has been described by some as “the most dangerous object to cross the path of Earth.”

The nucleus of Comet Swift-Tuttle is thought to be at least 13 miles in diameter, large by comet standards and one that passes very close to Earth on occasion.

Comets travel at great speeds as they orbit the sun too.

Of all its past and future orbital passes, Comet Swift-Tuttle has had and will have some very close approaches to Earth.

None that we can say will hit us with any real specificity, but the next close shave comes on Aug. 5, 2126, as the comet passes us by 13 million miles.

If the nucleus were to hit the Earth, some claim that the impact would be 27 times the energy of the great Chicxulub event in the Yucatan peninsula, millions of years ago.

That event, produced a crater on Earth, 62 miles wide and 19 miles deep.

Lets hope that Swift-Tuttle remains as far away as possible!

Here is the orbital path of Comet Swift-Tuttle.

Now for the positive news on how to view the meteor showers!

The peak period of the shower will occur during the early morning of August 12th and 13th. Look to the northeast sky, starting around midnight, as Perseus rises and will continue to climb into the night sky.

Here is a finder chart for the meteor shower.

A waning moon will be in the early morning sky and will reduce the number of meteors seen.

A realistic number of hourly meteors from dark and clear skies, are around 40 to 50, with 10 to 20 in more urban areas.

Still, the thrill of seeing these tiny remnants of the solar system are quite amazing for both young and older!

The meteor shower will continue all week and moonlight will diminish as the week goes on, improving your chances of enjoying this great celestial event.


To print your own monthly star chart, click here.

To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.

Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM Saturdays at 3 a.m.

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