Skip to main content

The Perseid meteor shower... now appearing in the sky above you

By Alan Duke, CNN
updated 7:46 AM EDT, Mon August 12, 2013
Shooting for six to seven hours from sundown to sunrise, <a href='http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-828533'>Abe Blair </a>captured this image around just past midnight on August 13, 2012, in Crater Lake, Oregon. "This was my first time watching a meteor shower and this was the image I was hoping to capture," he said. Shooting for six to seven hours from sundown to sunrise, Abe Blair captured this image around just past midnight on August 13, 2012, in Crater Lake, Oregon. "This was my first time watching a meteor shower and this was the image I was hoping to capture," he said.
HIDE CAPTION
Catching Perseid through your eyes
Catching Perseid through your eyes
Catching Perseid through your eyes
Catching Perseid through your eyes
Catching Perseid through your eyes
Catching Perseid through your eyes
Catching Perseid through your eyes
Catching Perseid through your eyes
Catching Perseid through your eyes
Catching Perseid through your eyes
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The best view of the Perseid meteor shower is after midnight until just before sunrise
  • The annual sky show happens when Earth passes near Comet Swift-Tuttle's path
  • Bright streaks are "interplanetary dust" burning up as it collides with our atmosphere
  • The meteor show is entertainment for most, but a research chance for NASA

Editor's note: Calling all stargazers. Share your photos of celestial happenings near you.

Los Angeles (CNN) -- A celestial fireworks show peaks Monday and Tuesday as Earth passes though the dust of a comet's tail.

Humans around the world have witnessed the Perseid meteor shower every August for at least 2,000 years, with dozens of meteors streaking across the sky each hour.

Your view is best after midnight until just before sunrise. Get away from city lights, if possible, for the full effect. A waning crescent moon means less light in the sky to compete with the meteor display. Next year's show will be dimmed by a full moon.

The annual sky spectacular happens when our planet's orbit around the sun passes near Comet Swift-Tuttle's path, which goes by every 130 years. The last close encounter with the comet was 20 years ago, but it left grains of dust in its wake.

Perseid meteor shower lights up sky
Amazing images of another meteor shower, the Orionid, October 2012

The bright streaks you see are "interplanetary dust" burning up as it collides with our atmosphere at about 133,000 mph, according to NASA micrometeoroid expert Diego Janches. "The fragments are either remnants from the solar system's formation, or they are produced by collisions between asteroids or comets from long ago."

"Each such fragment is approximately the size of a dime, but the more constant, sporadic meteoroids have been around much longer, breaking down over time into tiny fragments only about as wide as a piece of human hair," according to NASA.gov.

While the meteor show is entertainment for most, it is a research opportunity for Janches and other NASA scientists. They'll use radar systems around the globe to watch the fragments of sodium, silicon, calcium and magnesium enter the atmosphere.

"The small meteoroids feed the atmosphere with all these extra materials," Janches said in a NASA.com posting. "They come in, release metallic atoms that get deposited in the mesosphere and then get pushed around from pole to pole by the general global circulation. So by using the metals as tracers, you can answer some important questions about the general composition and movement of the atmosphere."

Jareen Imam contributed to this story

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Space
updated 12:10 PM EST, Fri December 5, 2014
An uncrewed test flight will send Orion 3,600 miles above Earth, farther into space than any craft designed for astronauts has gone since the last Apollo moon mission more than 40 years ago.
updated 9:02 AM EST, Mon December 1, 2014
The University of Colorado Boulder has announced a discovery 7,200 miles above Earth of a protective shield similar to the force fields you might see in "Star Trek."
updated 7:58 PM EST, Thu November 27, 2014
The International Space Station's 3-D printer will create objects that can be used by those living in the station.
updated 9:22 AM EST, Mon November 24, 2014
Shrimp crawling around rock chimneys spewing hot water deep in the Caribbean Sea may hold clues to the kinds of life that can thrive in extreme environments on other planets, NASA says.
updated 4:19 PM EST, Sat November 15, 2014
It's hard to top the tricky, first-ever landing on a comet but we'll try. Here are 11 other space missions to know about.
updated 6:21 PM EST, Fri November 7, 2014
Add another entry to the growing list of crazy footage captured by GoPro cameras.
updated 1:00 PM EDT, Sat November 1, 2014
It is in our DNA to explore the unknown. But pushing boundaries and exploring space is far from easy.
updated 11:42 AM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
If there's one thing we've learned about the CNN iReport community, it's that you all love to capture celestial events.
updated 8:25 PM EDT, Sun October 12, 2014
Want to ride an elevator into space? A breakthrough in nanotechnology could mean we will be riding into space on a cable made of diamonds.
updated 1:52 PM EDT, Tue October 7, 2014
Astronauts lie motionless in a row of compartments with medical monitoring cables connected to their bodies, as their space ship cuts through the silent blackness.
updated 3:29 PM EDT, Sat September 20, 2014
This image from the Hubble Space Telescope indicates that a huge ring of dark matter likely exists surrounding the center of CL0024+17 that has no normal matter counterpart.
Scientists are closer to seeing a vast, invisible universe as a spectrometer in Earth orbit picks up possible clues of dark matter.
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
The Soviets sent stray dogs up to conquer space. This is what happened next
updated 5:20 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Scientists believe that a hot gas bubble was formed by multiple supernovas.
updated 11:47 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Robonaut is the next generation dexterous robot
Life aboard the International Space Station.
updated 9:53 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
NASA's New Horizons mission hurtles toward Pluto in historic 3 billion mile expedition.
updated 11:56 PM EDT, Mon July 14, 2014
Scientists looking for signs of life in the universe -- as well as another planet like our own -- are a lot closer to their goal than people realize.
updated 11:51 AM EDT, Sun June 29, 2014
If you think you saw a flying saucer over Hawaii, you might not be crazy -- except what you saw didn't come from outer space, though that may be its ultimate destination.
updated 10:21 AM EDT, Fri June 13, 2014
When I first poked my head inside Virgin Galactic's newest spaceship, I felt a little like I was getting a front-row seat to space history.
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue February 25, 2014
From a sheep ranch in Western Australia comes the oldest slice of Earth we know.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT