Make a wish: Perseids meteor showers peak August 12th

Look up! The Perseids meteor showers are putting on their annual "shooting star" show in the sky, which will peak pre-dawn on August 12.


The last-quarter moon will interfere with visibility of most fainter Perseid meteors this year, but you'll still be able to see a few brighter ones, including the occasional "fireball." The best time to look is in the pre-dawn hours on Aug. 12, but midnight to dawn any morning the week before or after should produce a few meteors. The Perseids generally appear to radiate from a point high in the north, called the "radiant." But you need only point yourself generally toward the north and look up.

And while we're talking meteors, did you know many of these "shooting stars" come from comets? Most of the annual meteor showers we observe take place as Earth passes through trails of debris left behind by active comets orbiting the Sun, casting off little bits of dusty debris in their long tails. The Perseid meteors come from a comet called Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the Sun every 133 years.

In July, a comet that was just discovered this spring by NASA's NEOWISE mission made an appearance in our skies, wowing observers on the ground and even in space! This comet has a nearly 7,000-year orbit around the Sun, so it won't be back this way for a long time, but it's possible a meteor you see some night in the future might just be a little reminder of comet "NEOWISE."

2016 Perseids photo by Jeff Sullivan who writes:

Normally photographers separate out the meteors from the background to create a composite image. I decided to try a few composites where I left the stars in. They trace their path through our sky nicely, like a star trails image, without fully eclipsing our view of the meteors.

This image contains a real reflection, as in all of my images (I consider undisclosed faked reflections to be unethical).