AUSTIN (KXAN) – One of the year’s biggest meteor showers will provide a show for those celebrating Pride downtown this Saturday night. The Perseid meteor shower occurs every July and August. This year, the celestial event will occur on Saturday, August 12th, wrapping up on the morning of August 13th.
“Most of the things that we see in the form of meteors in the Earth’s atmosphere are basically sand sized to small, small pebbles size,” said Anita Cochran, Assistant Director at the University of Texas’ McDonald Observatory.
During the peak of the meteor shower, 90-to-100 meteors can be spotted every hour, said Lara Eakins, Senior Program Coordinator at UT’s Department of Astronomy.
“Generally speaking, you kind of want to face yourself sort of northeast, because that’s where the meteors will appear to come from,” Eakins said. She also recommends going to see the meteor shower after midnight.
What is the Perseid Meteor Shower?
The Perseids are a result of the Swift-Tuttle Comet that passes through our solar system every 133 years. The comet was last in our night sky in 1993, but we’re still getting to see parts of it.
“Comets are very, very fragile, they’ve fall apart very easily,” said Cochran, who’s been studying comets since 1979.
As pieces fall of the comet, they form a debris trail. “(Earth’s) orbit encounters some leftover debris of the orbit of the parent comet,” Eakins said.
When we encounter this trail of debris, the Perseids take place. During the peak, the Earth hits a thick clump of debris.
According to Cochran, as these small rocks hit the atmosphere, they fall to the ground. As they fall, they can reach 10,000-degrees Kelvin. Most of the rocks burn up before hitting the ground, which can take seconds.
Since the rocks are so cold in space, Cochran said that it takes awhile for them to warm up enough to catch fire, when we can see them.