2012 Perseid Meteor Shower

August 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: The 2004 Perseid Meteor Shower is Promising to Be Unusually Good

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

Related Stories

The Perseids are Coming

July 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: August 2010

August 2, 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 when the Perseids ...

STAR TRAK for May 2011

May 6, 2011

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

Perseid Meteors in 2012

August 8, 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 ...

Recommended for you

At Saturn, one of these rings is not like the others

September 2, 2015

When the sun set on Saturn's rings in August 2009, scientists on NASA's Cassini mission were watching closely. It was the equinox—one of two times in the Saturnian year when the sun illuminates the planet's enormous ring ...

New Horizons team selects potential Kuiper Belt flyby target

August 29, 2015

NASA has selected the potential next destination for the New Horizons mission to visit after its historic July 14 flyby of the Pluto system. The destination is a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) known as 2014 MU69 that orbits ...

Prawn Nebula: Cosmic recycling

September 2, 2015

Dominating this image is part of the nebula Gum 56, illuminated by the hot bright young stars that were born within it. For millions of years stars have been created out of the gas in this nebula, material which is later ...

Image: Hubble sees a youthful cluster

August 31, 2015

Shown here in a new image taken with the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) on board the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope is the globular cluster NGC 1783. This is one of the biggest globular clusters in the Large Magellanic ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.