Perseid Meteor Shower 2018

The Perseids – Perseid Meteor Shower 2018 is visible late July and through August. Maximum Perseid meteor activity is on and around 11/12/13 August. The Perseids are one of the most prolific and best-known meteor showers.

In 2018 there is no Moon present during the peak of the meteor shower. Consequently even more meteors will be visible due to dark skies! We will have perfect viewing conditions compared to other years if skies stay clear. Don’t miss natures firework display!

Prepare yourself for this coming cosmic spectacle and how to enjoy your #meteorwatch.

This article will guide you through the Perseids, what they are, how to watch them and how to enjoy them. For more info follow the links in this and the other guides mentioned or ask VirtualAstro on Twitter or the VirtualAstro and Meteorwatch Facebook pages.

One advantage of the Perseids meteor shower is that it happens in the warmer weather of Summer. As a result this makes it ideal for anyone interested in seeing their first meteor. You can see meteors at any time of year. For or a day or so around the date of Perseid maximum, there is a high chance of seeing more.

What Is The Perseid Meteor Shower 2018?

Perseids are meteors, also known as “Shooting Stars” that radiate from the constellation of Perseus, hence the name Perseid. Likewise other meteor showers use the same naming convention. For example, Orionids radiate from the constellation of Orion and Geminids radiate from the constellation of Gemini etc. Meteors from meteor showers and meteors not associated with a shower known as “Sporadic’s”originate from the depths of space. They are as old as the solar system is itself.

Meteors are usually dust or sand sized particles that burn up harmlessly in the Earth’s atmosphere. Some can be the size of pebbles, tennis balls, or much larger. These larger meteors can explode as bright “fireballs or bolides” as they burn up and are an amazing spectacle! The Perseid Meteor Shower is known for it’s stunning fireballs and bright meteors. Many burn intensively with bright persistent trails. (Read More: What Are Meteors and Meteor Showers)

Why We Get Meteor Showers

Meteor showers like the Perseid Meteor Shower 2018 are usually yearly events. As the Earth moves in its orbit around the Sun, it encounters the debris streams of comets. These comets have shed dust and gas from their tails as they got closer to the Sun. These debris streams contain meteoroids which collide with the Earth as it ploughs through the stream on its orbit. Sending meteors into Earth’s atmosphere which burn up as bright flashes of light. It is extremely rare for a meteor from a meteor shower to be large enough to impact the ground and become a meteorite.

Meteors in a shower appear to come from a particular area of the sky, We call this area the radiant. The Perseid radiant is in the constellation of Perseus, just below the familiar ‘W’ of the constellation of Cassiopeia. In August this can be seen high in the north-eastern sky later in the evening.

 

Perseid Meteor Shower 2018

Diagram showing Perseid radiant for the 12th

How to see Perseids

Perseid meteors appear randomly all over the sky, therefore there really isn’t a particular direction to look toward. Some sources point people towards the showers radiant. Try not to get sucked into looking in this area all the time as meteors can appear anywhere  in the sky at random.

Just look up and fill your gaze with sky, A dark location away from lights will help. Seeing the Perseid meteor shower 2018 will be easier without the Moon, but it all depends on your local conditions – if it’s very hazy with light pollution you may have a better chance seeing meteors overhead than lower down. Most of all get comfortable and spend a good half hour looking up! See the guide on how to observe meteors.

What to expect during the Perseid meteor shower 2018

Even in quiet years Perseid rates can exceed 80-100 meteors per hour at maximum, as seen from a dark site with the radiant high in the sky. The Perseid rate tends to be highest in the early hours before dawn when the observer is on the side of the Earth moving directly into the trail of comet debris.

Perseid Meteors tend to be brighter than most, so the perseid meteor shower 2018 is ideal for anyone wishing to see their first ‘shooting star‘. An observer watching  in evening and early morning skies will almost certainly see several over a period of 30 minutes.

The density of the meteor stream varies so the number of meteors can change in a matter of hours. It is always worth watching a few days or week or so either side of the Perseid maximum. A hazy summer evening with light pollution can obscure the fainter meteors and reduce the numbers you will see. Fortunately the Perseids tend to have a lot of bright meteors so there is still a very good chance of seeing some.

Where the Perseids Originate From

Some meteoroids originate from material ejected by comets passing through the inner solar system. The Perseid Meteor Shower was the first to be connected with a comet. Astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli noted the relationship between their orbit and that of Comet Swift-Tuttle observed in 1862.

Swift-Tuttle orbits the Sun about every 135 years, Its last perihelion (the point where it is closest to the Sun) was in 1992 and the next is in 2126. The debris trail is thickest nearer the comet, so the Perseids were highly active in the early 1990s with several hundred meteors per hour at the annual maximum.

As the Earth crosses Swift-Tuttle’s orbit it sweeps up some of the debris released by the comet on previous orbits. This burns up in the atmosphere as a meteor, but the particles in the Perseids are much too small to reach the ground as a meteorite.

Snowy Range Perseids Credit: David Kingham Photography

For more information on how to see the Perseid Meteor Shower 2018 and enjoy #meteorwatch Follow VirtualAstro on Twitter and the Meteorwatch and VirtualAstro Facebook pages. There is also this simple guide to viewing meteors and many other helpful resources on this website.

Good luck

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