Stargazers are in for a treat early Wednesday when the annual Perseid meteor shower reaches its peak.
The Perseid meteor shower occurs when pieces of the Swift-Tuttle comet hit Earth's atmosphere. The meteors began streaking across the skies late last month and will peak in the pre-dawn hours of Aug. 12, NASA officials wrote in a blog post.
“Make plans to stay up late the night of Aug. 11 or wake up early the morning of Aug. 12,” NASA officials wrote. “The Perseids are best seen between about 2 a.m. your local time and dawn. The Moon rises at around midnight, so its brightness will affect the peak viewing window.”
The Moon will reduce the number of visible meteors from 60 per hour down to 15 to 20 per hour. “Even though the Moon’s phase and presence will keep the frequency of visible meteors lower, there is still nearly one meteor every two minutes during the peak!” according to NASA.
A few Perseids will also be visible after 9 p.m. Tuesday, according to the space agency.
“If it’s not cloudy, pick an observing spot away from bright lights, lay on your back, and look up! You don’t need any special equipment to view the Perseids – just your eyes,” according to NASA. “Meteors can generally be seen all over the sky so don’t worry about looking in any particular direction.”
The meteor shower is named for the constellation Perseus, the part of the sky, or ‘radiant’ where it appears.
A small chunk of an asteroid or comet is also known as a meteoroid. When it enters the Earth's atmosphere, it becomes a meteor or fireball or shooting star. The pieces of rock that hit the ground, which are valuable to collectors, are meteorites.
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