The Perseid Meteor shower, according to NASA research, produce the most fireballs – bright meteors that streak across the sky – than any other annual shower. Under dark skies the Perseids stargazers could see more than 100 meteors per house and some fireballs can even be spotted in the light polluted urban areas.
“We have found that one meteor shower produces more fireballs than any other,” Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office said in a statement. “It’s the Perseid meteor shower, which peaks on August 12th and 13th.”
Since 2008, Cooke and his team of scientists have been tracking fireballs with meteor cameras around the Southern United States.
The Perseids produced 568 tracked fireballs, while the Geminid meteor shower was the next abundant producing 426 fireballs, observed from 2008 to 2013. The Geminid fireballs are not quite as bright as those produced by Perseids. Scientists use a magnitude scale in order to rate the brightness of objects in the night sky. Low numbers indicate bright objects, while negative numbers are given to exceptionally bright occurrences.
“The average peak magnitude for Perseid observed by our cameras is -2.7; for the Geminids, it is -2,” Cooke said. “So on average, Geminid fireballs are about a magnitude fainter than those in the Persieds.”
It is thought that the high rate of fireballs in the Perseids meteor shower are from its progenitor: Comet Swift-Tuttle. Each year, the Earth passes through the tail of dust left behind the large comet. The dust burning up in Earth’s atmosphere, which creates the brilliant shower.
“Comet Swift-Tuttle has a huge nucleus – about 26 kilometers (16 miles) in diameter,” Cooke said. “Most other comets are much smaller, with nuclei of only a few kilometers across. As a result, Comet Swift-Tuttle produces a large number of meteoroids, many of which are large enough to produce fireballs.”
For those wishing to witness such a grand event, interested observers should look to the skies on the night of August 12 between 10:30 pm to 4:30 am local time. The rate of meteor activity will increase as the night progresses and into the early hours of the morning.
The reason for this is what scientists refer to as light pollution. The larger city or urban environment, the more street lights and other night time illumination there is. As you move away from the city and look towards the skies, you may also notice the light halo of the city you are leaving. The ideal would be to get as far away as you can so as not to see the light pollution, which would give you an unobstructed view of the event.
Under these ideal conditions one should be able to see about 100 fireballs every hour or so, as the shower progresses through the night. Enjoy the show and look toward the sky
Written By: Iam Bloom