Perseid Meteor Shower 2012

Robert Bigelow

One of the most reliable meteor showers of the year will peak on August 12. That’s when Earth will collide with a stream of particles left behind by comet Swift-Tuttle. These particles, which range in size from sand grains to pebbles, will hit Earth’s upper atmosphere at speeds of 130,000 miles per hour and vaporize 50 miles above our heads. As they burn up, they produce the slivers of light streaking across the sky that we call the Perseid Meteor Shower.

A Perseid meteor slices across the sky in this photo taken during the 2009 shower. Credit: Kevin Clifford / AP

Earth passes through this particle stream every year in August. This year the peak of the Perseid meteor shower occurs on August 12 at 6 a.m. MDT. The best time to observe is from about 1:00 to 5:00 a.m. when Utah is facing into the meteor stream. If you cannot observe during those hours, do not despair, some meteors will still be visible as soon the sky is dark on the evening of August 11. Some meteors should also be visible on the evening of August 12. Near the peak, an observer away from city lights might see about 60 meteors per hour. A crescent moon rises about 2:00 a.m. and its light may hide some of the dimmer meteors. Early morning observers can also view the planets Jupiter and Venus in the eastern sky, on either side of the Moon.

Where is the best place to look? Look up. While meteors will appear to originate from the constellation Perseus in the northeast, they will be seen all over the sky.

The most important aspect of observing a meteor shower is to be away from city lights. No equipment is needed to observe, so leave the telescope at home. Meteor showers are best seen with the eyes alone, taking in as much of the sky as possible. However, a reclining lawn chair and mosquito repellant may help make the observing session more comfortable.

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4 thoughts on “Perseid Meteor Shower 2012

  1. I will be in Ocala, Fl on August 12. When is a good time to witness the meteor shower? Thanks!

  2. For Ocala, Florida, moonrise is 2:17 a.m. and astronomical twilight begins at 5:30 a.m. If you are far away from city lights and wish to observe without interference from moonlight, the best time would be from about 1:00 a.m to 2:30 a.m.. However, if you cannot get far away from the lights, the extra light from the Moon may not make much difference. In that case, anytime before 5:30 a.m. is good.

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