In the Northern Hemisphere, July and August mean summer, ice cream, and, for astronomy lovers, the Perseid meteor shower.
To see the astronomical phenomenon, you don’t need any fancy equipment, just a dark sky (which is probably more uncommon than a telescope), a comfortable seat facing north-east, and a bit of patience. The spectacle before your eyes will be worth it – the Perseids are in “outburst” this summer.
"This year, instead of seeing about 80 Perseids per hour, the rate could top 150 and even approach 200 meteors per hour," NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke told Space.com
The Perseids will peak on August 12, and will be visible from July 17 to August 24, although a full Moon on August 18 could scupper some visibility. And if you want to be really dedicated, you can see a planetary alignment at sunset and then hang around until 10pm local time in the Northern Hemisphere, when the meteors become visible.
Meteor showers are caused by the cloud of debris left in space by comets moving closer to the Sun. As Earth passes through these clouds, some of the cometary remains hit the upper atmosphere, shining brightly as they burn.
The Perseid meteors are caused by the heavenly rubble of Comet Swift-Tuttle, the largest object to regularly pass by Earth, which is 26 kilometers (16 miles) wide. This year the Perseids are in outburst mode because Earth is going through a particularly dense strand of dust.
The cosmic debris in our orbit is classified as meteoroids, becoming meteors when they are captured by our planet’s gravitational field, falling, and then burning through the atmosphere. If anything survives and hits the ground, then that is a meteorite.
The Perseids get their name because they seem to come out of the constellation of Perseus, and they have been a constant in the northern summers since the first century of the common era.