Perseid Meteor Shower 2016: Peaking In Morning Hours of August 12
One of the year’s most anticipated and exciting astronomical events is now underway! The Perseid Meteor Shower 2016 peaks during the early morning hours of Friday, August 12. As the brightest, most elaborate of the annual meteor showers, the Perseids have rarely disappointed. Plus, experts say this year’s show is poised to be among the biggest and best!
According to NASA meteor guru, Bill Cooke, if the right conditions prevail, “…rates could soar to 200 meteors per hour.” Naturally, “perfect conditions” for astronomy entail clear skies, low light pollution and limited moonlight. Every location differs, but the Moon will set around 1:00 a.m. on Aug. 12, which will help out.
How to see the Perseid Meteor Shower 2016
The Earth will travel through the trail of material left by Comet Swift-Tuttle from July 17 to August 24. However, the peak occurs overnight from Aug. 11 to Aug. 12 because we sail through the densest region of comet material (explained more below).
You will want to start watching anywhere from midnight through dawn on Friday. Meteors will appear to be travelling from the constellation Perseus, which should appear toward the horizon. However, you will be able to see the shower coming from all directions of the night sky.
Meteor shower viewing, like most cosmic activities, is a game of patience. Prepare a comfortable chair, jacket, drinks or any other amenities you would like and settle in. Even brilliant showers, like the Perseids, can go through spells of little action. But, patient viewers will be rewarded, enjoying periods of dozens, even hundreds of beautiful shooting stars.
With the high expectations of this year’s shower, trust me, you want to be patient and experience this awe-inspiring event!
What causes the Perseid Meteor Shower?
Comet Swift-Tuttle is one of the largest objects to pass by Earth annually. As it travels closer to the Sun, the increasing heat starts to melt its icy body away. This is what creates the infamous tail behind the comet, called the coma.
Every so often, our Earth passes through the trail of debris the comet leaves behind. This is when we see meteors, pieces of the comet falling and burning up in Earth’s atmosphere! During the peak of the shower, Earth is traveling through the regions of the comet’s trail with the highest amount of debris. This is what causes the highest volume of meteors occurring in the sky.
Just in case you did not already want to enjoy this fantastic event, it only happens once in a while. In fact, the last time Comet Swift-Tuttle flew past Earth was 1992, and it won’t go by again until 2026! So, prepare your post, settle in, and enjoy some of the universe’s most beautiful work!