Dust or particles—whatever the cosmos throws at us on any given day—break past earth’s defenses at 37 miles a second. They can reach temperatures upwards of 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit and light up the night sky with an amazing assortment of colors, courtesy of a nonverbal, celestial agreement between our atmosphere and outer space.
‘Shooting stars’ occur when meteors hit Earth’s atmosphere, rubbing against air particles and creating friction, heating the meteors. The heat vaporizes most meteors, creating bright, colorful streaks of light that linger briefly afterward. Meteors are always entering into our atmosphere, but there are certain times of the year where they fall at greater, more observable intervals. We call these meteor showers.
One of Earth’s most popular meteor showers is the Perseids Meteor Shower, lasting from July to August. This year it will peak on Wednesday, August 11 through Friday, August 13, with up to 100 shooting stars visible across the night sky per hour. According to NASA:
“The Perseids, which peak during mid-August, are considered the best meteor shower of the year. With very fast and bright meteors, Perseids frequently leave long “wakes” of light and color behind them as they streak through Earth’s atmosphere. The Perseids are one of the most plentiful showers (50-100 meteors seen per hour) and occur with warm summer nighttime weather, allowing sky watchers to easily view them.
Perseids are also known for their fireballs. Fireballs are larger explosions of light and color that can persist longer than an average meteor streak. This is due to the fact that fireballs originate from larger particles of cometary material. Fireballs are also brighter, with apparent magnitudes greater than -3.”
The Perseids are best viewed in the Northern Hemisphere during the pre-dawn hours, though at times it is possible to view meteors from this shower as early as 10 p.m. Find yourself an area free from light pollution, like a rural region, wilderness area, or campground, and look up and enjoy the free light show brought to you by Mother Nature herself, which will peak on Augst 11-13.