Every year in August the Universe puts on a spectacular light show for all to see. This light show known as the the Perseid meteor shower promises to be an exciting event this year. The event is also known as " The Tears of St. Lawrence". Unlike last year when the moon's bright light blocked the meteor shower from view, this year there will be no interference at all since the full moon isn't until after the meteor showers are over.

The August Perseids are among the most visible of the readily seen annual meteor showers. At it's peak activity it can yield up to 90 or 100 meteors per hour but on average a good shower will produce about one meteor per minute under a dark country sky. Any intrusion of light and far less will be seen.

The Perseid meteor showers got their name because of their proximity to the famous Double Star Cluster of Perseus. As for the meteors themselves we now know that they are actually the dusty debris remains left behind by the comet Swift-Tuttle. This comet was discovered back in 1862, and was most recently observed in 1992. It takes the comet 130 years to circle the sun. Every time the Comet Swift-Tuttle passes the sun it produces a dusty trail along its orbit that causes the Perseids. The Earth passes the closest to the orbit of the Swift-Tuttle every year in mid August so this dusty debris trail of meteors becomes highly visible.

The prime time to see the meteor showers will be during late-night hours of Wednesday, Aug. 10th on through the first light of dawn on the morning of Thursday, and then again during the late-night hours of Aug. 12 into the predawn hours of Aug. 13. A few of the Perseids meteors can be seen as much as two weeks before and a week after the peak. The time limit range for the meteors can in fact extend from July 17 to Aug. 24.

As a special bonus to viewers every evening from the 10th through the 13th, the three bright planets of Venus, Mars and Saturn will be seen as tightly clustered just after sunset. So grab some lawn chairs, invite a couple of friends along and be sure to enjoy the show. Weather permitting as always.

Credit & Copyright: Babak Tafreshi (TWAN)

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