The Perseids are named after the constellation of Perseus. They are associated with the comet 109/P Swift-Tuttle, which has an orbital period of about 130 years. Swift-Tuttle last passed through the inner Solar System in December 1992. It won’t return until 2126.
The Perseids are one of the best known meteor showers and they can produce some spectacular views, with up to 60 meteors per hour seen during their peak. They occur when Earth passes through a cloud of debris left by comet Swift-Tuttle. The shower is active each year between July 17th and August 24th.
About 80% of all Perseid activity occurs between August 9th and 13th, with the maximum occurring on or around August 12th.
Where Do I look?
Best viewing conditions for meteor showers will be an open sky away from bright lights like streetlights or city lights.
How Often Do They Occur?
Depending on your location, the Perseids can be seen from July 17th through to August 24th.
The viewing period is longer in the Northern Hemisphere than it is in the Southern Hemisphere. This means that activity will be seen between July 17th and August 24th for North America, Central America and Europe (click here to see a list of cities where you can see the Perseids) . In Australia, New Zealand and parts of South America , the peak will occur during this time frame but there should still be some activity before and after. The earliest dates for viewing are June 13th for locations within 20 degrees of latitude north or south of the equator with most activity occurring from the end of July through to mid-August.
The viewing period is shorter in the Southern Hemisphere, with activity starting around August 7th and ending by August 24th . On the opposite side of Earth, this means that there will be some days where the shower will be active but not be visible from our planet’s surface. (click here to see a list of cities where you can see the Perseids)
Where Do Meteor Showers Come From?
Meteor showers are named after the constellation that they appear to radiate from in the sky. The Perseids are named for their radiant point which lies in the constellation Perseus. This is because when we look at them it appears as though they are originating from a particular point in the sky. In reality, the meteors are moving through space in parallel paths and all appear to come from a single point. The Perseids radiate from the northern part of Perseus, hence the name.
How Fast Are They Moving?
Meteor speeds vary between meteor showers because they are made up of different types of rocks . Most will travel at around 40km per second but some can be as fast as 72km/s! This is much faster than a typical shooting star – which you see when a piece of dust or rock burns up while it is passing through the Earth’s atmosphere – travelling at 25km/s. A few special ones called bolides may even move slower than this though! Meteor showers happen when there are lots of meteors passing through the Earth’s atmosphere at one time . For this effect to be really noticeable, you need a dark sky away from city lights. This is because the meteors will only be visible for a short time during their flight and therefore need to stand out against the background sky.
Meteor Shower Facts
The radiant point for the Perseid Meteor shower is in the constellation Perseus which is well placed in the northern half of the night sky between midnight and 2am local time at mid-latitudes. The best time to view will be when it is around 90 degrees above your horizon, just before dawn . Some meteors may still be seen 30 minutes after your local sunrise but observing conditions will not be ideal as the radiant will be too low in the sky.
See below for a list of cities where you can see Perseids . If you don’t have time to look up at the sky tonight, you can watch live feeds from around the world including Madrid, Spain and Scarborough, Maine on our featured partner page MeteoEarth .
This year we are having a new moon during peak activity which means that if clear skies prevail there should be some fantastic views! Peak viewing conditions for mid-northern latitudes will occur between 3am (3:33 UT) on August 12th until 6am (6:17 UT) August 13th 2013 UTC .
Quick Perseid Meteor Shower Highlights
Maximum Activity Date – August 12th / 13th 2013 (UTC)
Max Activity Time – 03:33 – 06:17 UTC
Radiant Position – Perseus, in the northern sky before dawn
Active Times – between July 17th and August 24th for North America, Central America and Europe. In Australia, New Zealand and parts of South America , the peak will occur during this time frame but there should still be some activity before and after. The earliest dates for viewing are June 13th for locations within 20 degrees of latitude north or south of the equator with most activity occurring from the end of July through to mid-August.
Maximum Activity Rate – Meteor rates may reach 80 meteors per hour under a clear dark sky! But don’t worry if you can’t catch them all, there is plenty of activity during the entire span of the shower!
Meteor Velocity – 40-72km/s or 120 000 – 200 000 km/h
Radiant Velocity – 31km/s (107 500 km/h)
Apparent Diameter – 29′ or 0.5°; meteors closest to radiant will have longer tracks.