Perseid meteor shower to light up sky tonight

( photo) The comet Swift-Tuttle in 1992, the last time it passed close to Earth

One of the most popular meteor showers of the year is scheduled to peak tonight, with an average of 80 meteors displayed seen every hour.

The Perseid Meteor Shower occurs annually when the debris from the Swift-Tuttle comet enters Earth’s atmosphere. The comet last passed nearby Earth in 1992, and won’t do so again until 2126. The comet is actually the largest object known to pass by the Earth, at over 16 miles wide. Earth passes through the dust and other fragments annually that are left behind by the comet, which causes meteors to be visible as the pieces burn up in our atmosphere. The average size of the meteors is equivalent to a grain of sand, yet are still able to be seen by the naked eye while they travel at 37 miles per second.

During peak meteor years, like 2016, up to 200 meteors an hour can be seen. This year, due to the fullness of the moon, it’s estimated that rates will be around half of what they are normally. This evening is supposed to be mostly clear with only a small chance of precipitation. However, if the weather gets nasty, Aug. 13 will still have an impressive amount of activity.

NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke recommends “taking in as much sky as possible,” such as out in the countryside. He says it takes around 30 minutes for the human eye to adjust to the dark, so getting ready early can help you see more activity. Those who live in Monroe County or the Greenbank area should have no trouble getting an excellent look at the shower, but those in town might want to go camp out if they’re really seeking the best view.


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