The Perseid meteor shower is underway and American astronomers will have the best views next month, according to the American Meteor Society.
The Perseids are the most popular annual meteor shower and are active from July to September. They usually reach their peak strength on August 12 or 13, depending on the year. This year, they will peak between August 11 and 12.
During the peak of 2022, there will also be a full moon, according to NASA. The Perseids are best visible in the northern hemisphere during the pre-dawn hours, but it is possible to see them as early as 10 p.m.
Perseids are particles emitted by comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, according to the company. They are located near the constellation Perseus at their peak activity, hence their name. Normally, 50 to 75 members of the shower – fragments left behind by the comet that light up the sky as it hits Earth’s atmosphere – are viewed per hour.
Earth passes through the path of Comet Swift-Tuttle from July 17 to August 24. The peak occurs when the Earth passes through the densest and dustiest zone. This is when people on Earth can see the most meteors in the least amount of time. The rate at this time could be between 150 and 200 meteors per hour, according to Space.com.
Comet Swift-Tuttle takes 133 years to orbit the sun once and last visited the inner solar system in 1992, according to NASA. It measures 16 miles in diameter at its core – almost twice the size of the object thought to have crashed into Earth and killed the dinosaurs.
Fireballs, or larger explosions of light and color, can be seen during the Perseid meteor shower. They last longer than the average meteor trail because they come from larger particles in the comet. Fireballs are also brighter, according to NASA.
In May, the Tau Herculids meteor shower, which originates from Comet 73P/Schwassman-Wachmann, and the Eta Aquarids, which originates from Halley’s Comet, occurred. The next meteor shower will be the Orionids, which originate from Halley’s Comet, between September and November. The Orionids will peak Oct. 20-21, according to Space.com.