Annual Perseid meteor shower could put on quite a show this year

Published: Aug. 11, 2016 at 7:35 PM CDT
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The annual Perseid meteor shower will peak the next couple of nights in the skies over the ArkLaTex.  One of the most popular and dependable displays of shooting stars, the Perseids could put on a better than average show this year thanks to the planet Jupiter.

The meteors are created as the Earth passes through a cloud of ice and dust left behind from comet Swift-Tuttle.  The comet debris enters Earth's atmosphere at high speeds creating streaks of bright light as the small pieces burn up.  The Perseids are known for producing fast and bright meteors and even the occasional fireball streaking across the night sky. An extra tug of gravity from Jupiter's orbit this year will help to push the Swift-Tuttle comet dust a bit closer to Earth which could give a burst of activity.

Meteors will be possible all night, but are expected to be most numerous after midnight and through the pre-dawn hours Friday morning.  As many as 90-100 meteors per hour are possible at the peak late tonight, but if the astronomical conditions are just right meteor rates could be up to 200 per hour.

The meteor shower is best viewed away from city lights which will obscure all but the brightest meteors.  To view the shower just lie back and look up in the sky toward the northeast.  The meteors will appear to emanate from the constellations Perseus (hence the name) and Cassiopeia.

Clouds tonight may obscure the display in parts of the ArkLaTex. For stargazers experiencing cloudy skies, or unable to get away from city lights, a live broadcast of the Perseid meteor shower will be available via NASA's Ustream channel overnight on Aug. 11-12 and Aug. 12-13, beginning at 9 p.m. CDT.

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