2012 Perseid Meteor Shower

Aug 10, 2012

On the nights of Aug. 11th through 13th, the best meteor shower of the year will fill pre-dawn skies with hundreds of shooting stars. And that's just for starters. The brightest planets in the solar system are lining up right in the middle of the display.

The peaks on the nights around August 12th as Earth passes through a stream of debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle.

"We expect to see meteor rates as high as a hundred per hour," says Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office. "The Perseids always put on a good show."

Perseids can be seen any time after 10 to 11 pm. The best time to look, however, is during the dark hours immediately before dawn. Also, advises Cooke, avoid city lights if possible. Faint meteors are easily lost in the urban glare. A visit to the countryside will typically triple the number of meteors you see.

This year's display is extra-special because of the planets. Jupiter, Venus, and the crescent Moon are gathering together just as the Perseid meteor shower reaches its peak. The alignment occurs in the eastern sky before sunrise on the three mornings of highest meteor activity.

On August 11th, a 33% crescent Moon will glide by Jupiter, temporarily forming a bright pair directly above brilliant Venus. Red- Aldebaran will be there, too, adding a splash of color to the gathering.

August 12th, the narrowing 24% crescent Moon will drop down between Jupiter and Venus. Together they make a bright 3-point line in the sky, frequently bisected by shooting stars.

On August 13th, with the shower just beginning to wane, the planets put on their best show yet: The 17% crescent moon will pass less than 3 degrees from Venus as Jupiter hovers overhead. Sky watchers say there's nothing prettier than a close encounter between the slender crescent Moon and Venus--nothing, that is, except for the crescent Moon, Venus and a flurry of Perseids.

It's only natural, while you're watching a like the , to count the number of you see. It turns out those numbers in your head are valuable. NASA wants them. Meteor tallies gathered by amateur sky watchers can be used by NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office to study and model the Perseid debris stream.

"We've developed an app for Android and iPhones to help amateur sky watchers count meteors in a scientific way and report the results to us," says Cooke. "It's called the 'Meteor Counter' and it's available for free in the Android Marketplace and Apple's App Store."

Explore further: Computer model shows moon's core surrounded by liquid and it's caused by Earth's gravity

More information: NASA's Meteor Counter app helps citizen scientists contribute to authentic research. Pick Android or Apple

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Perseid Meteors in 2012

Aug 08, 2012

This year’s Perseid meteor shower, already in progress, continues until about August 24th. The peak of activity is expected to occur around midday on August 12th, with a possible all-sky maximum of perhaps 50–100 ...

The Perseids are Coming

Jul 31, 2009

Earth is entering a stream of dusty debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle, the source of the annual Perseid meteor shower. Although the shower won't peak until August 11th and 12th, the show is already getting underway. ...

STAR TRAK for May 2011

May 06, 2011

The closest gathering of four bright planets in decades will be on display low in the eastern sky before dawn during May.

STAR TRAK: August 2010

Aug 02, 2010

Every three years, the same phase of the moon happens on about the same date of each month. The annual Perseid meteor shower of August last happened in a moonless sky in 2007, so this year if the sky is clear ...

Recommended for you

Titan offers clues to atmospheres of hazy planets

22 hours ago

When hazy planets pass across the face of their star, a curious thing happens. Astronomers are not able to see any changes in the range of light coming from the star and planet system.

Having fun with the equation of time

22 hours ago

If you're like us, you might've looked at a globe of the Earth in elementary school long before the days of Google Earth and wondered just what that strange looking figure eight thing on its side was.

The source of the sky's X-ray glow

Jul 27, 2014

In findings that help astrophysicists understand our corner of the galaxy, an international research team has shown that the soft X-ray glow blanketing the sky comes from both inside and outside the solar system.

User comments : 0