Each year around this time, the Perseids can be seen lighting up the sky in the northern hemisphere.
It is considered the best meteor shower because it has the brightest and most numerous meteors. It occurs every year usually between July 23rd and August 22nd. However, the best time to see them this year is the night of August 11th until the early morning of August 12th, you will be able to see fifty plus meteors shoot across the sky each hour – especially as the Moon will only be at 13% providing a dark canvas for the performance. Perhaps even a fireball (bright explosions of light) or two will be thrown in for good measure. If you don’t want to be up between midnight and dawn, it is still worth looking up for as you may still catch a shooting meteor. Best thing to do is to sit outside for a while to allow your eyes to get accustomed to the darkness. If you live in the city, getting away from the brighter lights will definitely help.
What causes all this? Comets! NASA says a Comet is like a “dirty snowball”. A big clump of rock, gravel and dust particles held together by frozen gasses. They exist outside our orbit but like the planets, follow an elliptical route around the Sun. As they do this, they leave a trail of debris behind – sort of like Pigpen as he walked about – which Earth travels through each summer around this time. The comet responsible for the Perseids is the Swift-Tuttle comet (named after the astronomers who discovered it back in 1866). As Earth’s upper atmosphere collides with the debris, it causes the particles to heat and shatter or burn up which creates these flashing streaks of light across the sky, traveling at just under sixty kilometers a second. This is called a meteor.
But the meteor is not named after the comet. The name ‘Perseids’ comes from the constellation Perseus as this is the part of the sky where the meteor originates from. If you recall from Greek mythology, Perseus was the hero who defeated Medusa, the Gorgon with snakes for hair. If you know your astronomy, find Perseus in the sky next to Andromeda and you will be sure to see the fireworks.