Perseid meteor showers

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If you searched the skies from August 10-12, 2016, you couldn’t probably have missed the Perseid meteor showers. A meteor shower is an increase in the number of meteors observed in a particular part of the sky. Meteor showers usually occur annually and with varying intensity. The Perseid meteor showers typically occur in August.

The meteors of a meteor shower all appear to originate at a single point in the sky known as the radiant point, or radiant. A shower is named for the constellation in which its radiant is located, e.g., the Lyrids appear to come from a point in Lyra, the Perseids from Perseus, and the Orionids from Orion.

Meteors and Comets

Meteor showers are closely associated with comets. When a comet breaks up, a swarm of particles eventually becomes scattered out over its entire orbit. If this orbit intersects that of the earth, a meteor shower will be observed. The shower will be particularly intense in those years when the original comet would have been observed. The source of the Perseids is Comet Swift-Tuttle. The tail of this comet intersects Earth’s orbit every August, and the disintegrating particles of comet dust, most no bigger than sand grains, appear to us as streaks of light when they hit the atmosphere.

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