“Here’s something to think about. The meteors you’ll see this year are from comet flybys that occurred hundreds if not thousands of years ago, and they’ve traveled billions of miles before their kamikaze run into Earth’s atmosphere,” says a meteor expert Bill Cooke of NASA.
Earlier this month, A meteor shower peaks on August 11th and 12th. These Perseid meteors are visible annually from mid-July to mid-August when Earth ventures through trails of scattered fragments of a periodic comet called Swift-Tuttle (which orbits the sun every 133 years).
When Earth crosses paths with Swift-Tuttle’s debris, specks of comet-stuff hit Earth’s atmosphere and they disintegrate. Subsequently, these meteors are called Perseids because they look like they emanate from the constellation Perseus.
According to NASA, Perseid meteors travel at an intense speed of 132,000 miles per hour which is 500 times faster than the fastest car in the world. However, the Perseids pose no threat to Earth as most burn up 50 miles above our planet.
This year, Earth was in for a close encounter than usual with the comet trails that result in meteor shower, setting the stage for an ‘out of this world’ display.
Most importantly, this meteor shower can be seen without any astronomical instruments, from anywhere on Earth! The best time to watch this cosmic display of “shooting stars” is between midnight and dawn on the morning of August 12th.
Credits: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
An image of two Perseid meteors, along with the Andromeda galaxy which are captured in Ohrid, Republic of Macedonia on Aug. 11, 2016 during the peak of the Perseid meteor shower.
Picture credit: Stojan Stoianovski