Outburst of shooting stars up to 200 mph - meteors per hour

August 10, 2016 by Marcia Dunn
In this early morning, Aug. 13, 2013 file photo, a meteor streaks past the faint band of the Milky Way galaxy above the Wyoming countryside north of Cheyenne, Wyo., during a Perseids meteor shower. On Thursday night, Aug. 11, 2016 into early Friday morning, the Perseid meteor shower is expected to peak with double the normal number of meteors. Scientists call this an outburst, and they say it could reach up to 200 meteors per hour. (AP Photo/The Wyoming Tribune Eagle, Blaine McCartney)

The heavens will be bursting with shooting stars this week.bThursday night into early Friday, the annual Perseid (PUR'-see-ihd) meteor shower is expected to peak with double the normal number of meteors. Scientists call this an outburst, and they say it could reach up to 200 meteors per hour.

Prime viewing should be in the pre-dawn hours of Friday, after the moon sets.

The last Perseids outburst was in 2009. Thanks to a gravity nudge from Jupiter, debris from comet Swift-Tuttle could stray closer to Earth again. These scattered specks of dust—a trail in the comet's wake—are what flash as they enter the atmosphere at a mind-blowing 132,000 mph and burn up.

"Here's something to think about. The meteors you'll see this year are from comet flybys that occurred hundreds if not thousands of years ago," NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke said in a statement. "And they've traveled billions of miles before their kamikaze run into Earth's atmosphere."

Scientists hope to capture the action with a new instrument at the International Space Station. The U.S.-Japanese experiment's name is appropriately named Meteor.

An August tradition, the Perseids are so named because the appear to emanate from the constellation Perseus, the Medusa-killing hero of Greek mythology.

Explore further: Great balls of fire! Prepare for meteor 'outburst'

Related Stories

Perseid meteors could see 'surge in activity' on Aug. 11-12

August 9, 2016

Friday 12 August sees the annual maximum of the Perseid meteor shower. This year, as well as the normal peak on the night of 12/13 August, meteor scientists are predicting additional enhanced activity in the shower the night ...

Spectacular meteor shower set to light up UK skies

August 12, 2015

A spectacular display of hundreds of shooting stars are expected to be visible in the skies across parts of the UK late on Wednesday as the annual Perseid meteor shower reaches its peak.

Annual Perseid meteor shower promises a fine display

July 29, 2015

The annual Perseid meteor shower is one of the best and most reliable meteor showers of the year. It peaks every year around the 12th/13th August, and under ideal conditions produces a maximum frequency of meteors, or zenith ...

Perseid fireballs

July 30, 2013

In astronomy, there's nothing quite like a bright meteor streaking across the glittering canopy of a moonless night sky. The unexpected flash of light adds a dash of magic to an ordinary walk under the stars.

Recommended for you

Making stars when the universe was half its age

January 18, 2019

The universe is about 13.8 billion years old, and its stars are arguably its most momentous handiwork. Astronomers studying the intricacies of star formation across cosmic time are trying to understand whether stars and the ...

Saturn hasn't always had rings

January 17, 2019

One of the last acts of NASA's Cassini spacecraft before its death plunge into Saturn's hydrogen and helium atmosphere was to coast between the planet and its rings and let them tug it around, essentially acting as a gravity ...

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.