Perseid Meteor Shower 2012 Peaks Sunday


The Perseid meteor shower is peaking on Sunday, August 12th. The sky map below shows the location in the northern sky where the Perseid meteor shower will appear to originate from in 2012. The Perseid meteor shower hits its peak every August and appears to come out of the constellation Perseus.

Any night from now until around August 19th you will have a good chance of seeing Perseid meteors in the sky. “These objects are tiny bits of rock and debris from an old comet, which is named Swift-Tuttle after the astronomers who discovered it in 1862.”

“Every year in early August, Earth passes through the comet Swift-Tuttle’s orbit and sweeps up some of this debris. As the tiny rocks encounter the thin upper atmosphere of the Earth, the air is heated to incandescence and we see a rapid streak of light.”

“While you can see the Perseids any night this week, your chances will be better after local midnight (1 a.m. if you’re on daylight saving time) on any particular night, and your chances will be best on Saturday night (Aug. 11) and Sunday morning (Aug. 12), because that’s when we will be in the center of the comet track.”

“Find a spot shielded from stray light, including the moon, which will be rising in the east in the wee hours of the morning. Stretch out on a lawn chair. At first you will just see the stars: enjoy the view while your eyes are getting adapted to the dark. You don’t have to look in any particular direction.”

“The Perseid meteors appear to radiate from a point between the constellations Perseus and Cassiopeia, in the northeastern section of the sky.”

“The Perseids get their name from Perseus, the constellation from which they seem to emanate, but they can appear anywhere in the sky. Their only connection with Perseus is that, if you trace their path backward across the sky, eventually you get to Perseus.”

“When you see a meteor watch that area more closely, as two or three meteors often come in groups down the same track.”

“It’s fairly easy to photograph meteors with a digital camera. Put the camera in manual mode, and focus it at infinity. Set the zoom lens to its widest setting, and close the aperture down to f/5.6. Open the shutter for 5 to 10 minutes. This will be long enough that the stars will trail in circles while the meteors will be straight lines.”

Source: Space and Wikipedia

Image Credits: NASA/JPL; Perseids via Wikimedia Commons

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