Saturday, August 10, 2013

Watch the August 2013 Meteor Shower Tonight

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- As with each passing night leading up to the peak of the 2013 Perseid Meteor Shower, "falling star" and "shooting star" activity will continue to increase tonight, August 10, 2013.   


The best time to watch tonight's meteor shower will be between the hours of 1 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. your local time.  Before midnight, the meteor shower rate will start out low, then increase as the night wears on, peaking before sunrise when the constellation Perseus is high in the sky. 



This year promises to be even more spectacular for night sky watchers than prior years due to a Moon that will set before 1 a.m. on the mornings of August 11th, 12th, and 13th as the Perseid Meteor shower becomes more intense from 1 a.m. through the predawn morning.


Where to look in the sky for the Perseid meteor shower:


The best way to look for tonight's meteor shower is to lay on your back with your feet towards the East and to look straight up.  



Where to watch the August 2013 meteor shower:


The Perseid meteor shower will be viewable all over the world.  The major factor on where a good place is to watch the Perseid meteor shower will be determined by the viewer's local cloud cover and artificial light pollution.

The year's best meteor shower had already begun to produce meteors in late July which were observed by NASA scientists as captured in this video: 





Where do the meteors come from?

According to NASA, the Perseids have been observed for about 2,000 years.  The source of the annual meteor shower is the debris trail left behind comet Swift-Tuttle.  Each year in August, the Earth passes through a cloud of the comet's debris. These bits of ice and dust burn up in the Earth's atmosphere. 


As the last video below explains, the Perseid Meteor Shower produces more fireballs than any other meteor shower, according to Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office.  A fireball is a very bright meteor, at least as bright as the planets Jupiter or Venus.  They can be seen on any given night as random meteoroids strike Earth's upper atmosphere. One fireball every few hours is not unusual.  Fireballs become more numerous, however, when Earth is passing through the debris stream of a comet.  That’s what will happen this August.


Cooke thinks the Perseids are rich in fireballs because of the size of the parent comet. Comet Swift-Tuttle has a huge nucleus--about 26 km in diameter," comments Cooke. "Most other comets are much smaller, with nuclei only a few kilometers across. As a result, Comet Swift-Tuttle produces a large number of meteoroids, many of which are large enough to produce fireballs."


 


IMAGE AND VIDEO CREDIT: NASA/MSFC/Meteoroid Environment Office