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Annual Perseid Meteor Shower peaks this weekend


Lexington Park, MD - Every summer, as Earth passes through the trail left by Comet Swift-Tuttle, an ensuing meteor shower occurs. The peak of the shower, as proclaimed by NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke to Space.com, is this weekend on the nights of Aug. 11-12 and Aug. 12-13 (Saturday and Sunday night).

The event is known as the Perseid Meteor Shower which has been bombarding the Earth’s atmosphere since July 17 and will continue doing so until Aug. 24. The reason why it peaks this weekend, as explained by Space.com, is due to the Earth passing through the “densest, dustiest area” of the comet’s path. During the peak, onlookers can expect to see 60-70 meteors per hour.

What we see on Earth is the entry of meteoroids into Earth’s atmosphere where they become meteors and subsequently burn up. The very few that do reach Earth’s surface are called meteorites. According to Space.com, the majority of the meteors we will see are about the size of a grain of sand. These tiny celestial objects travel at 37 miles per second and burn up in a vibrant display, allowing onlookers to make wishes or simply enjoy the astronomical marvel.

Comet Swift-Tuttle is named after the two astronomers who discovered it in 1862—Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle. The nucleus of the comet is about 16 miles wide and it last passed near Earth in 1992.

Those wanting to stay up late and see the shower should visit the web site cleardarksky.com, which allows one to see when the sky will be clearest, and where the least amount of light pollution for viewing will be. A prime location in Southern Maryland is Point Lookout State Park with a low light pollution rating.

Contact Jerold Massie at staffwriter@thebaynet.com

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