FLORENCE,S.C. — The annual Perseid Meteor shower will reach its peak between Thursday and Friday, according to the American Meteor Society.
Meteor showers occur when dust or particles from asteroids or comets enter Earth’s atmosphere at very high speed. This process creates what we commonly refer to as ‘shooting stars’.
Meteor showers are usually named after a star or constellation close to the meteor. The Perseid is named after the constellation Perseus and is the most famous meteor shower.
Francis Marion University astronomy professor Jeanette Myers explained what happens when the Perseid Meteor shower occurs.
“There are comets that come close to Earth and as they orbit around the sun they leave debris fields behind,” she said. “As Earth crosses through the debris fields, which are about the size of a pea, Earth’s gravity pulls the debris into the atmosphere and we see those streaks, which are little pieces of the comet burning up in the sky.”
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Meyers said as the Earth is orbiting the sun, it passes through the debris fields every year at the same time, which is the reason for recurring meteor showers.
The peak is the time to see the most streaks in the sky, she said.
“That is what we call the shooting stars,” she said. “What we see during the peak also depends on the moon. If the moon is out and is very bright then it is difficult to see the smaller streaks.”
Myers said the moon will be in a full-moon phase Thursday and Friday.
“There will be a full moon on Aug. 12,” she said. “That is going to be a very bright moon. It would be like looking at a 60 watt light bulb. That will make the faint streaks impossible to see. The larger streaks we should be able to see with our eyes.”
The Perseid Meteor shower comes from comet Swift-Tuttle, which takes approximately 133 years to orbit around the sun.
Myers said the last one was close to us in 1992 and will not come around again until 2126 to repopulate the debris field.