The Perseid meteor shower will be peaking this weekend and with Saturdays new moon the night sky will be perfect for viewing this astronomical show.

Meteoroids, commonly referred to as shooting stars, are space debris that have survived being accelerated towards the Earths gravitational field and penetrating the Earth’s atmosphere. As they enter the Earth’s atmosphere at speeds of 45,000 miles per hour, frictional forces heat them to incandescence – that is the emission of electromagnetic radiation due to heat. The result is a beautiful glowing object streaking across the night sky.

The debris that creates these spectacular events comes from small icy bodies known as comets and/or minor planets orbiting in the inner regions of our solar system known as asteroids.

These events actually happen every night, but on particular nights the number is significantly increased. Such an event is known as a meteor shower and are generally due to the Earth passing through the trail of debris left by a comet or asteroid. These types of meteor showers are periodic and are generally named after the constellations that they appear to be radiating from.

This weekend the meteor shower will appear to be radiating from the constellation Perseus and is thus known as the Perseid meteor shower. The source is comet Swift-Tuttle, named after astronomers Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle who discovered it in 1862. Although the comet only orbits the Earth every 130 years, its river of debris is left behind. It is this river of debris that the Earth is currently passing through in its annual orbit about the Sun. In fact, the Earth has been passing through this river for over two weeks and will continue for the next two weeks, peaking this weekend on the 13th August at 1am GMT. With the new moon this Saturday at 9:59 am GMT, viewing of the Perseid shower will be extremely favorable this year.

To find out more details and information on how and where to view in both real and virtual time see the article below.

Amira Val Baker