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The Perseids Meteor Shower

The Perseids Meteor Shower

Context:

The Perseids meteor shower is going to be active from August 17-26. This is an annual celestial event and is considered the best meteor shower, as many bright meteors and fireballs shoot through the sky making it easy for people to watch it from Earth.

Meteors: 

  • Meteors are bits of rock and ice that are ejected from comets as they maneuver around their orbits around the sun.
  • For instance, the Orionids meteors emerge from the comet 1P/Halley and make their yearly presence in October.

Meteor showers:

  • Meteor showers are witnessed when Earth passes through the trail of debris left behind by a comet or an asteroid.
  • When a meteor reaches the Earth, it is called a meteorite and a series of meteorites, when encountered at once, is termed as a meteor shower.
  • According to NASA, over 30 meteor showers occur annually and are observable from the Earth.
  • As meteors fall towards the Earth, the resistance makes the space rocks extremely hot and, as meteorites pass through the atmosphere, they leave behind streaks of glowing gas that are visible to the observers and not the rock itself.

Perseids meteor shower:

  • The Perseids meteor shower was first observed over 2,000 years ago. It peaks every year in mid-August.
  • The Perseids occur as the Earth runs into pieces of cosmic debris left behind by the comet Swift-Tuttle.
  • The cloud of debris is about 27 km wide, and at the peak of the display, between 160 and 200 meteors streak through the Earth’s atmosphere every hour as the pieces of debris, traveling at some 2.14 lakh km per hour, burn up a little less than 100 km above the Earth’s surface.

Source of perseids meteor showers:

  • The comet Swift-Tuttle takes 133 years to complete one rotation around the sun. The last time it reached its closest approach to the sun was in 1992 and will do so again in 2125.
  • Every time comets come close to the sun, they leave behind dust that is essentially the debris trail, which the Earth passes through every year as it orbits around the Sun.

Visibility of Meteor:

  • According to NASA, these meteor showers are best viewed from areas in the Northern Hemisphere in pre-dawn hours.
  • Meteors are best visible on a cloudless night, when the sky is visible and when the Moon is not extremely bright.
  • Chances of a successful viewing are higher from locations far away from the lights of cities.
  • Pollution and monsoon clouds make the Perseids difficult to view from India. But in areas where there is no light or air pollution, viewers do not need to use any special equipment to view the showers.

Source: Indian Express