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The annual August meteor shower is widely known as the Perseid meteor shower. This meteor shower is caused by debris from the Swift-Tuttle comet. These meteors appear to come from the constellation Perseus; hence their name. The meteor shower has been observed for over 2, 000 years.
The August meteor shower is caused by debris falling off of the Swift-Tuttle comet and becoming trapped in its coma. Some of the debris falls into the gravitational pull of the Earth and is sucked into the Earth’s atmosphere. Since the majority of this material is ice, it readily ignites and vaporizes, causing the streaks of light that we enjoy each year. The shower is visible from mid-July each year, with the peak in activity being between August 9 and 14, depending on the particular location of the stream. During the peak, the rate of meteors has reached up to 120 meteors per hour. They can be seen all across the sky, but because of the path of Swift-Tuttle’s orbit, Perseids are primarily visible in the northern hemisphere. As with all meteor showers, the rate is greatest in the pre-dawn hours, since the side of the Earth nearest to turning into the Sun scoops up more meteors as the Earth moves through space.
The annual August meteor shower has been a big event that has brought many new followers to the field of astronomy. 2009 boasted a double peak and 1972 was the year with the most meteors per hour. Here on Universe Today we have a great article about the double peak of 2009. Another article of interest here on Universe Today is about the Centaurids meteor shower. Astronomy Cast offers a good episode about the results of large meteors: craters.