Perseid meteor shower: Best viewing times

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The Perseid meteor shower is happening right now and NASA says it’s expected to be one of the best in years.  This is traditionally the best meteor shower of the year with over 100 meteors falling per hour in optimal conditions, which for observers is an extremely dark, unobscured viewing location. But the meteor shower has even produced stunning results in less optimal conditions.

The meteors are called Perseids because they fly out of the constellation Perseus. Earth spends weeks inside the massive debris zone and passes through the heart of the debris trail.

Meteors can appear anywhere in the sky, so don’t just look to the radiant point in Perseus, but instead the darkest part of the sky.

The best times to catch it will be overnight Wednesday Aug. 12 into Thursday Aug. 13, with the peak in the predawn hours, around 4 a.m., Thursday.

The meteor shower coincides with a new moon, which provides close to optimal conditions. The last time a Perseid meteor shower coincided with a new moon was 2007, according to NASA.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Hunstville, Alabama will host a live program about the meteor shower which will air on NASA TV and online on NASA’s UStream channel Wednesday night at 10 p.m. 

The show will highlight NASA’s research related to meteors and comets, but will also talk about the science behind this meteor shower, which is expected to be a spectacular show.


The meteor is the flash of light you see from debris burning up as it enters the atmosphere, not the debris itself. The meteoroid is the debris itself as it travels through the atmosphere, and the meteorite is any part of a meteoroid that survives the fall and lands on earth.

The meteors are made up of bits of rock and ice ejected by the Hailey-type comet 09P/Swift-Tuttle as the sun warmed it the last time it passed through our neck of the solar system.

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