As Earth zips along its orbit, it slides through the dusty trails of asteroids and comets. These are what we’ve come to know as meteor showers. Quick and easy lil educational moment for ya!
Sooo, there are nine main meteor showers that can be witnessed around the world throughout the year and are named after the constellations across which they streak.
Meteoroids, which burn up in the atmosphere, can be as small as a dust grain or as large as a small asteroid. Once they hit Earth’s surface, they’re called meteorites. On most nights, astronomy buffs will witness a handful of meteors, but during a meteor shower, there could be as many as 140 meteors visible per hour.
The Next Meteor Shower: The Perseids
Summer is marked by the Perseid meteor shower, which is active from July 17 to August 26 but peaks during the late evening and early hours of August 11 and 12. Thanks to mild weather and high meteor count, the Perseids are a favorite meteor shower for many astronomy enthusiasts.
Unfortunately, due to the current phase of the moon, fewer meteors will be visible this year. Viewers in the Northern hemisphere (and as far south as 51 degrees south) can expect to see, at peak, around 15 t0 20 meteors in the sky each hour, according to NASA. (Typically, viewers can expect more than 60 meteors per hour.) Peak is expected between 2 a.m. and dawn.
These bright meteors typically emanate from the Perseus constellation. The dust trails that cause many meteor showers are fed by comets. We can thank Comet Swift-Tuttle for this dazzling celestial display.
Fogust got you down? If your view of the sky becomes socked in by clouds, you can still catch the cosmic fireworks via the NASA Meteor Watch Facebook page. The livestream is hosted by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and will begin at 9 p.m. ET today and continue until dawn on August 12.
Where Do Meteor Showers Come From?
As comets and asteroids approach the sun, ice melts and they begin to shed dust and rock. Asteroids, however, stop shedding material as they sail away from the sun. In December 2019, astronomers revealed at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco, California, that another famed meteor shower, the Geminids, is also sourced by an asteroid, called 3200 Phaethon.
All meteor showers seem to originate from one region in the sky. This is usually the constellation they are named after. For example, the Perseids originates in the constellation Perseus and the Orionids originates in the constellation Orion. The Quadrantids is named for an obsolete constellation no longer officially recognized by the International Astronomical Union called Quadrans Muralis.
When Are All the Other Meteor Showers?
Active: December 27 to January 10
Peak: January 3 and January 4
Active: April 16 to April 28
Peak: April 21 and April 22
Active: April 19 to May 28
Peak: May 6 and May 7
Southern Delta Aquariids
Active: July 12 to August 23
Peak: July 29 and July 30
Active: July 17 to August 26
Peak: August 11 and August 12
Active: October 2 to November 7
Peak: October 21 and October 22
Active: November 6 to November 30
Peak: November 16 and November 17
Active: December 4 to December 17
Peak: December 13 and December 14
Active: December 17 to December 26
Peak: December 22 and December 23
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