Every August stargazers look forward to the Perseid meteor shower, the most active shooting star show of the year. Astronomers this year predict that this natural phenomenon will be the best in at least a decade.
The Perseid meteor shower happens when earth passes through a debris field left behind by comet Swift-Tuttle. When the debris hit the earth’s atmosphere, they burn up creating what we call shooting stars. During a normal year, a stargazer can expect to see a shooting star every 30 seconds. This year the rate could be up to 3 per minute at the shower’s peak on the morning of August 12. The reason for the frequency increase this year is the gravitational pull of giant planets like Jupiter.
“Over time, the gravitational influence of Jupiter and other giant planets changes the particle orbits, and as a result, their close approach distances to Earth will vary.” says Bill Cook head of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office.
“If the change for a given stream is towards Earth’s orbit, we may see greater than normal activity when our planet passes the trail’s nodal crossing.
This year Jupiter’s influence has moved the 1079, 1479, and 1862 meteor streams closer to Earth, so all forecasters are projecting a Perseid outburst with double normal rates on the night of August 11-12.”
The best place to watch the shower is away from light pollution of the cities. Find a place with a good view of the horizon and let your eyes adjust to the darkness. Do not use your phone or flashlights at least 10 minutes before stargazing. Get comfortable, be patient and enjoy the show. This year the shower runs July 17th – August 24th and peaks on the night of August 12th.