"This year's (2015) Perseid meteor shower peaks on August 12th and 13th," says Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office. "The Moon will be nearly new, setting the stage for a great display."
The Perseid meteor shower is caused by debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle. Every 133 years the huge comet swings through the inner solar system and ejects a trail of dust and gravel along its orbit. When Earth passes through the debris, specks of comet-stuff hit the atmosphere at 140,000 mph and disintegrate in flashes of light.
Swift-Tuttle's debris zone is so wide that Earth spends weeks inside it. Indeed, it is not unusual for sky watchers to see a few Perseids streaking across the midnight sky as early as July. Rates are highest, however, in August when Earth passes through the heart of the debris zone.
Last year, the Perseid meteor shower peaked during the nights around a bright "supermoon." Lunar glare reduced the visibility of the Perseids as much as 5 fold to as few as 20 per hour. This year however, is different.
Under a clear, dark sky far from city lights, "We expect meteor rates as high as 100 per hour on peak night," says Cooke.
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