What is the Perseid meteor shower?

The Perseid meteor shower is one of amateur astronomy’s most awe-inspiring events. Every summer, from the middle of July to the end of August, hundreds of shooting stars light up the sky in a spectacular fiery display.

This occurs when Earth passes through the tail of comet Swift-Tuttle, causing minute particles of remnant dust to rain down on our atmosphere.

Regardless of the fact that most of these particles are barely larger than a micron or two across, the speeds and forces involved cause them to burn up with such force, the light show can be seen across much of the northern hemisphere, leaving contrails miles long or, if you’re lucky, fireballs exploding like fireworks from space.

Perseid meteor shower
A meteor passing over the Very Large Telescope (VTL) in Chile during the Perseid meteor shower in 2010

The peak time to see this year’s Perseid meteor shower is tonight, and for the first time since 2007, it will also coincide with a new moon. As the moon will not be visible, the sky should be really dark, providing perfect viewing conditions to spot a meteor hurtling through the air.

To discover more about the incredibly reliable Perseid meteor shower and find out how to improve your chances of seeing it, take a look at our interview with Gemma Lavender from All About Space magazine….

If you are lucky enough to spot the Perseid meteor shower, send us your comments and photos on Facebook and Twitter.

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Plus, take a look at:

What’s the difference between an asteroid and a comet?

Do satellites ever get hit in orbit like in Gravity?

Asteroids: The ultimate guide to killer space rocks