11-12 August 2020 – the Perseids

The evening of  11/12  August might be the peak of the Perseids, considered one of the most well-known prolific meteor showers.

Meteors (often known as taking pictures stars) are shiny streaks of sunshine attributable to small lumps of rock or steel referred to as meteoroids hitting the Earth’s environment at a really excessive speed (in the case of the Perseids round 200,000 km/h). As they move by the environment they get heated up by friction to a temperature of 1000’s of levels and begin to glow. This causes them to emit a streak of sunshine as they transfer by the environment. Most meteoroids get heated to such a excessive temperature that they vaporise and disappear from view. In truth, most meteoroids  are vaporised at an altitude of fifty km or greater.


Image credit score Wikimedia Commons

If the meteoroid is giant sufficient, greater than 1 cm in diameter, a few of it will possibly survive the passage by the Earth’s environment and the half that hits the floor is called a meteorite.

What causes the Perseids?

A comet referred to as Swift-Tuttle orbits the Sun each 133 years. As it orbits, materials crumbles away from its floor. Over an extended time frame this shedded materials has shaped a large oval-shaped ring in the similar orbit as the comet.

Swift Tuttle Debris

At the similar time every year, the Earth passes by this ring of particles. When this occurs a few of the particles hit the Earth’s environment. This is what causes the Perseids meteor bathe. The particles ring is pretty extensive and the Earth first crosses it in late July and takes till late August to get the different aspect. The thickest a part of it’s encountered round 11/12 August and that is the date on which the Perseid bathe is at its most prolific.

When is the greatest time to look at a meteor bathe?

In common, the greatest time of day to look at the Perseids, or actually any meteor bathe, is simply earlier than it begins getting gentle earlier than daybreak. The diagram under reveals the Earth passing by the particles cloud


The diagram reveals the Earth rotating on its axis.

  • B signifies noon, when the Sun is highest in the sky,
  • D midnight
  • A dawn
  • C sundown.

In the hours after midnight (D to A), an observer is on the aspect of the Earth dealing with in the direction of the Earth’s course of journey, so there are much more meteoroids getting into the Earth’s environment. The time of day when the most meteoroids hit the earth is definitely at daybreak (A), however at the moment the brightness of the early morning sky makes them troublesome to see. This is why the greatest time to see meteors is simply earlier than it begins getting gentle in the morning.

If you could have the probability to look at a meteor bathe over a interval of hours and even minutes, you’ll discover that should you observe the meteor trails backwards, all of them seem to originate from the similar place. This is especially noticeable should you take an extended publicity {photograph}. The level in the sky from the place the meteors seem to originate is named the radiant.


Image credit score Wikimedia Commons

The image above reveals an extended publicity {photograph} of a meteor bathe. The radiant is marked with a small circle. The Perseids’ radiant lies in the constellation Perseus, which is straight overhead round daybreak at a latitude of 60 levels North. My readers in the Southern Hemisphere received’t have the ability to see them, however you could have your personal meteor showers invisible to these of us in the Northern Hemisphere

Seeing the Perseids in 2020

The greatest place to look at any meteor proven is properly away from gentle air pollution  in the early morning simply earlier than the sky begins getting gentle. In Manchester, England the place I stay, dawn on 12 August 2020 happens at 5:45 am, however in fact it  begins getting gentle properly earlier than then. In truth the first stage of twilight, when the Sun’s first rays illuminate the japanese sky begins at 3:00 am .  However this year, the Moon is above the horizon from 11:40 pm on the night of 11/12 August and is in its final quarter section, the place half of it lit by the Sun. The brightness of the Moon  will make evening sky brighter and the fainter meteors tougher to see

Moon final quarter section – picture credit score NASA

Just a few days in a while the evening of 14/15 August the Moon can have waned right down to  a crescent section, so will much less shiny. It additionally  received’t rise till 1:10 am that means that it will likely be at a decrease elevation in the sky at 3 AM. These two results signifies that the Moon will elevate  the background sky brightness much less. So it is perhaps barely higher to attend a couple of days after 11/12 August  to get the greatest view of the Perseids

The illumination is the share of the Moon which is illuminated as seen from Earth. For instance 0% illumination is a brand new moon, 100% is a full moon.

Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR)

When astronomers measure the power of a meteor bathe, they use a time period referred to as the Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR). The ZHR is the most variety of meteors a naked-eye observer would see per hour if the sky have been utterly darkish, there have been no cloud cowl and the radiant have been straight overhead.  The diagram under reveals how the ZHR different with date for the Perseids in 2016.

perseids zhr

(McCure 2016)

Fingers crossed for clear skies on the evening of 12-13 August, but when we’re unfortunate, or if you’re from down below, right here’s a desk exhibiting a few of the different showers, though none are on common as prolific as the Perseids:

Meteor Showers


McClure, B (2016) Perseid outburst anticipated in 2016, Available at:http://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/everything-you-need-to-know-perseid-meteor-shower (Accessed: 25 July 2016)

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