Meteors brighten the night sky over a Bedouin tent near Amman, Jordan, on August 12, 2004.
You may have noticed that Google has a special logo on its homepage today: it’s to highlight the annual Perseid meteor shower, which peaks tonight. If you click on the logo, the first result will be this National Geographic News report on the Perseids: what they are, how to watch the meteors, and more.
What’s the big deal?
In the Northern Hemisphere, this summer’s Perseids may be the best meteor-watching event of the year.
Why is it called the Perseids?
Each year, Earth passes through the debris of Comet Swift-Tuttle. The meteoroids get incinerated in our atmosphere, and the heated air makes the showy streaks we see as meteors, or shooting stars. Because Swift-Tuttle’s shooting stars appear to streak outward from a point near the constellation Perseus, we call them the Perseids.
When to watch?
The best viewing hours should be whenever skies are clear and whenever the moon isn’t present. For example, the U.S. East Coast should have moonless skies between about 10:45 p.m. and 1 a.m. (check your local moonrise and moonset times). Look for the shooting stars to streak out from the northeast to points across the sky, especially at and after midnight (see animated diagram above).
Photograph by Ali Jarekji, Reuters