Perseid Meteor Shower 2017

Perseid Meteor Shower 2017

08/08/2017Written by Tamela Maciel

In 2017, the Perseid meteor shower peaks between 12-13 August, with up to 90 meteors an hour!

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Perseid Meteor Shower

Perseid Meteor Shower
Perseid Meteor Shower
Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle in 1992. Credit: Gerald Rhemann via NASA

Get the hot chocolate and blankets ready – the Perseids are coming to a night sky near you. In 2017, peak activity occurs in the night of 12-13 August.

Every year in August, the Earth crosses the orbital path of Comet Swift-Tuttle. Comets constantly shed dust and stones as they fly around the Sun, and it is this debris along Swift-Tuttle’s path that causes the Perseids. The debris hits Earth’s atmosphere at more than 200,000 kilometres an hour and burns up in bright, short blazes about 80 kilometres off the ground.

Comet Swift-Tuttle takes 133 years to orbit the Sun and has been shedding debris for thousands of years. The first record of the Perseids dates back to 36 AD in ancient Chinese annals.

The comet itself last approached Earth in 1992 and will next be visible from Earth in 2126. When this happens it will be a bright comet easily visible with the naked eye, but that will be for future generations to enjoy.

How to watch the Perseids

Adapted from Stellarium

Adapted from Stellarium

The Perseids are named after the summer constellation Perseus as this is the direction from which they appear to originate. While the meteors originate from this point they can be best seen 30 degrees away from Perseus, stretching across large sections of the sky.

To view the Perseids from the UK, head out in the late evenings of 11, 12, 13 August, on whichever night is the most clear.

In 2017, a waning Moon will rise around 11pm and its light may obscure the fainter meteors. So for darkest skies, try to catch the Perseids just before the Moon is due to rise.

Once the Moon rises, the brightest meteors will still be visible, so keep a sharp eye out.

You do not need to look in any particular direction. Lean back, let your eyes adjust to the dark, and watch the whole sky (it helps to have friends look in different directions).

The darker the location the better, so find the darkest sky you can away from city lights.

As always in the UK, clouds can be an issue, but be patient. The Perseids can be so frequent (2-3 meteors a minute) that a quick break in the clouds can be enough to reveal several bright meteors.

You can look for the Perseids on other nights as well. This year the shower runs between 17 July and 24 August 2017.

Brightest Meteor Shower?

Brightest Meteor Shower?
Perseids 2016. Credit: Michael Karrer via Flickr

There’s been a rumour doing the rounds that this year’s Perseid meteor shower will be the brightest shower for 96 years.

Unfortunately that’s not true, as EarthSky and NASA’s meteor expert Bill Cooke explain.

The 2017 Perseids may be slightly more numerous than usual, but the waning Moon will obscure many of the fainter meteors. Nevertheless the Perseids is still the most spectacular meteor shower of the year, and well worth a bit of sky gazing!

Meteor Infographic

Meteor Infographic
Credit: National Space Centre

Download our National Space Centre Meteor Shower Guide to make sure you are fully prepared to watch the Perseids!

Other upcoming meteor showers for 2017 include:

Orionids

Comet of Origin: Halley
Radiant: constellation Orion
Peak Activity: 21 Oct 2017
Peak Activity Meteor Count: 10-20 meteors per hour

Taurids

Comet of Origin: 2P/Encke
Radiant: constellation Taurus
Peak Activity: 5 Nov 2017
Peak Activity Meteor Count: 10-20 meteors per hour
Notes: Strong moonlight may interfere this year.

Leonids

Comet of Origin: 55P/Tempel-Tuttle
Radiant: constellation Leo
Peak Activity: 17 Nov 2017
Peak Activity Meteor Count: 10-20 meteors per hour

 

Geminids

Comet of Origin: 3200 Phaethon
Radiant: constellation Gemini
Peak Activity: 13-14 Dec 2017
Peak Activity Meteor Count: 120 meteors per hour

Ursids

Comet of Origin: 8P/Tuttle
Radiant: constellation Ursa Minor
Peak Activity: 21-22 Dec 2017
Peak Activity Meteor Count: 10 meteors per hour

Clear skies!