The annual Perseid meteor shower peaks on August 12 and, weather permitting, this can produce some stunning meteor activity.

What is a meteor shower?

A meteor shower occurs when Earth passes through the debris stream occupying the orbit of a comet, in this case comet Swift-Tuttle. Perseid activity starts from July 23 and continues through to the third week of August. Rates are low throughout much of this period, increasing significantly between 9-15 August with a pronounced peak on the 12th.

Perspective makes shower meteors appear to emanate from a single point in the sky known as the shower radiant. A typical meteor results from a particle the size of a grain of sand vaporising in Earth’s atmosphere. Something larger than a grape will produce a fireball and this is often accompanied by a persistent afterglow known as a meteor train. This is a column of ionised gas slowly fading from view as it loses energy.

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