The annual Perseid meteor shower, which is considered “the best meteor shower of the year,” according to NASA, will begin lighting up the night sky on Wednesday, July 14.
Though the Perseids will be active through August 24, the show will peak in mid-August, specifically on August 11, 12 and 13, when up to 100 meteors will become visible per hour. The celestial phenomenon, which is appropriately named after the constellation of Perseus, where its stream of shooting stars appear to originate, will still be visible beginning this week.
The meteor shower is a product of Earth’s atmosphere interacting with space debris from a comet named 109P/Swift-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1862 by Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle. 109P/Swift-Tutte, which last visited the inner solar system in 1992, takes 133 years to orbit the Sun. The Perseids are also known for their impressive fireballs, which explode from larger particles of cometary material with long-lasting streaks of colorful light.
The spectacle is best watched from the Northern Hemisphere during pre-dawn hours, after 2 a.m., though at peak times it is possible to view the meteor shower as early as 10 p.m. Meteors are typically most visible in locations that are away from city lights that can potentially drown out the magnitude of shooting stars.
If you are not in a suitable location to watch the Perseids, NASA is gearing up to the livestream the celestial event on its Meteor Watch Facebook page. The Virtual Telescope Project will also provide live coverage of the meteor shower.
Following the Perseids, the next meteor shower will not take place until the Orionids claim the night sky in October.
Elsewhere in space, a new study suggests that methane in the plumes of Saturn’s moon might be a sign of alien life.
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