Perseid Meteor Shower 2020

Perseid Meteor Shower 2020

06/08/2020Written by Malika Andress

In 2020, the Perseid meteor shower peaks between 11-12 August, with up to 100 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 ready for the best light show of the year – the Perseid Meteor Shower is coming soon to a night sky near you! In 2020, peak activity occurs in the night of 11-12 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.

Read more: Our Beginner’s Guide to Meteorites, Asteroids, Comets, & Meteors

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 or 12 August, on whichever night is the most clear.

In 2020, a third quarter to waning crescent Moon will block out some of the fainter meteors during the peak, but the Perseids are so bright and numerous that it should still be a good show. The Perseids are active over a broad window between 16 July and 23 August, so be sure to look up to the skies any time during this time.

The best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight.

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.

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 2020 include:

Perseids
Comet of Origin: 109P/Swift-Tuttle
Radiant: constellation Perseus
Peak Activity: 12/13 Aug 2020
Peak Activity Meteor Count: 90 meteors per hour

Orionids
Comet of Origin: Halley
Radiant: constellation Orion
Peak Activity: 21/22 Oct 2020
Peak Activity Meteor Count: 10-20 meteors per hour

Taurids
Comet of Origin: 2P/Encke
Radiant: constellation Taurus
Peak Activity: 10/11 Nov 2020
Peak Activity Meteor Count: 10-20 meteors per hour

Leonids
Comet of Origin: 55P/Tempel-Tuttle
Radiant: constellation Leo
Peak Activity: 16/17 Nov 2020
Peak Activity Meteor Count: 10-20 meteors per hour

Geminids
Comet of Origin: 3200 Phaethon
Radiant: constellation Gemini
Peak Activity: 14/15 Dec 2020
Peak Activity Meteor Count: 120 meteors per hour

Ursids
Comet of Origin: 8P/Tuttle
Radiant: constellation Ursa Minor
Peak Activity: 21/22 December 2020
Peak Activity Meteor Count: 10 meteors per hour

Clear skies!