Stargazers know that August is an exciting time of the year. This month marks the peak of the Perseid meteor shower, which many astronomers consider the best and most consistent meteor shower. Here's everything you need to know to catch the event in 2020.
What is the Perseid meteor shower?
The Earth passes through the tail of the Swift-Tuttle comet each summer. When this happens, debris from the comet burns up in our planet's atmosphere, resulting in vibrant shooting stars that are visible at night. These meteors appear to originate from the constellation Perseus, which is where the annual shower gets its name.
The Perseids are famous for putting on a reliably spectacular show. When conditions are perfect, you can count up to 150 shooting stars zipping across the sky in a single hour. Most years, the Perseids peak at around 60 shooting stars per hour.
When to see the Perseids
The Perseid meteor shower starts in mid-July and lasts through late August. This year, the event will peak in the early mornings of August 11, 12, and 13. The moon enters its last quarter phase around that time, which means shooting stars will be harder to spot in 2020 than in a typical year. You can expect to count as many as 40 or 50 meteors per hour when the shower peaks. That's still an improvement over last year, when the Perseids' peak coincided with a nearly full moon.