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11-12 August 2020 – the Perseids

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The night time of  11/12  August would be the peak of the Perseids, one of the well-known prolific meteor showers.

Meteors (often known as capturing stars) are shiny streaks of sunshine brought on by small lumps of rock or metallic referred to as meteoroids hitting the Earth’s environment at a really excessive velocity (within the case of the Perseids round 200,000 km/h). As they go via the environment they get heated up by friction to a temperature of hundreds of levels and begin to glow. This causes them to emit a streak of sunshine as they transfer via the environment. Most meteoroids get heated to such a excessive temperature that they vaporise and disappear from view. In actual fact, most meteoroids  are vaporised at an altitude of 50 km or increased.


Picture credit score Wikimedia Commons

If the meteoroid is giant sufficient, larger than 1 cm in diameter, a few of it might survive the passage via the Earth’s environment and the half that hits the bottom is named a meteorite.

What causes the Perseids?

A comet referred to as Swift-Tuttle orbits the Solar each 133 years. Because it orbits, materials crumbles away from its floor. Over an extended time frame this shedded materials has fashioned a large oval-shaped ring in the identical orbit because the comet.

Swift Tuttle Debris

On the identical time annually, the Earth passes via this ring of particles. When this occurs a number of the particles hit the Earth’s environment. That is what causes the Perseids meteor bathe. The particles ring is pretty extensive and the Earth first crosses it in late July and takes till late August to get the opposite facet. The thickest a part of it’s encountered round 11/12 August and that is the date on which the Perseid bathe is at its most prolific.

When is the perfect time to look at a meteor bathe?

Generally, the perfect time of day to look at the Perseids, or in reality any meteor bathe, is simply earlier than it begins getting mild earlier than daybreak. The diagram under reveals the Earth passing via the particles cloud



The diagram reveals the Earth rotating on its axis.

  • B signifies noon, when the Solar is highest within the sky,
  • D midnight
  • A dawn
  • C sundown.

Within the hours after midnight (D to A), an observer is on the facet of the Earth going through in the direction of the Earth’s course of journey, so there are much more meteoroids getting into the Earth’s environment. The time of day when probably the most meteoroids hit the earth is definitely at daybreak (A), however at the moment the brightness of the early morning sky makes them tough to see. Because of this the perfect time to see meteors is simply earlier than it begins getting mild within the morning.

You probably have the prospect to look at a meteor bathe over a interval of hours and even minutes, you’ll discover that in case you observe the meteor trails backwards, all of them seem to originate from the identical place. That is significantly noticeable in case you take an extended publicity . The purpose within the sky from the place the meteors seem to originate known as the radiant.


Picture credit score Wikimedia Commons

The image above reveals an extended publicity of a meteor bathe. The radiant is marked with a small circle. The Perseids’ radiant lies within the constellation Perseus, which is instantly overhead round daybreak at a latitude of 60 levels North. My readers within the Southern Hemisphere received’t be capable to see them, however you could have your individual meteor showers invisible to these of us within the Northern Hemisphere

Seeing the Perseids in 2020

One of the best place to look at any meteor proven is nicely away from mild air pollution  within the early morning simply earlier than the sky begins getting mild. In Manchester, England the place I dwell, dawn on 12 August 2020 happens at 5:45 am, however in fact it  begins getting mild nicely earlier than then. In actual fact the first stage of twilight, when the Solar’s first rays illuminate the jap sky begins at three:00 am .  Nonetheless this 12 months, the Moon is above the horizon from 11:40 pm on the night of 11/12 August and is in its final quarter section, the place half of it lit by the Solar. The brightness of the Moon  will make night time sky brighter and the fainter meteors harder to see

Moon final quarter section – picture credit score NASA

A number of days afterward the night time of 14/15 August the Moon can have waned all the way down to  a crescent section, so will much less shiny. It additionally  received’t rise till 1:10 am which means that it will likely be at a decrease elevation within the sky at three AM. These two results signifies that the Moon will increase  the background sky brightness much less. So it could be barely higher to attend just a few days after 11/12 August  to get the perfect view of the Perseids

The illumination is the proportion of the Moon which is illuminated as seen from Earth. For instance zero% illumination is a brand new moon, 100% is a full moon.

Zenithal Hourly Charge (ZHR)

When astronomers measure the power of a meteor bathe, they use a time period referred to as the Zenithal Hourly Charge (ZHR). The ZHR is the utmost variety of meteors a naked-eye observer would see per hour if the sky had been utterly darkish, there have been no cloud cowl and the radiant had been instantly overhead.  The diagram under reveals how the ZHR assorted with date for the Perseids in 2016.

perseids zhr

(McCure 2016)

Fingers crossed for clear skies on the night time of 12-13 August, but when we’re unfortunate, or if you’re from down beneath, right here’s a desk displaying a number of the different showers, though none are on common as prolific because the Perseids:

Meteor Showers


McClure, B (2016) Perseid outburst anticipated in 2016, Obtainable at:http://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/everything-you-need-to-know-perseid-meteor-shower (Accessed: 25 July 2016)

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