Perseid meteor shower 2021 India: cosmic fireworks

The Perseids meteor is active from – 17 July to 24 August 2021. Perseids shower peak every year in August, and this year it will be at a peak from 12 to 13 August. They are one of the best meteor showers of the year. They are relatively easier to view as they occur in summer nighttime. In peak hours you can catch as many as 100 meteors/hour. That’s 100 wishes every hour!

Comet of Origin109P/Swift-Tuttle
RadiantConstellation Perseus
ActiveJuly 17 – August 24
Peak Activity Meteor CountUp to 100 meteors per hour
Meteor Velocity37 miles (59 km) per second
Quick Facts (Source: NASA)

Appearance

Perseids frequently appear like a long streak of lights in the sky originating from the Perseus. You can also witness fireballs – a large ball of fire cruising through the sky, they remain longer in the sky then an ordinary meteor – which are quite common to see during the Perseid. They originate from larger particles of the parent comet. Fireballs are also brighter, around the magnitude -3 (as bright as Venus and Jupiter). They appear usually like a green streak of light in the sky for a fraction of second.

Source

Meteors originate from a Comet or an Asteroid. Whenever a Comet or an Asteroid travels through their orbit – they often leave some space debris behind on their path. And when Earth passes through these regions the leftover debris hits the Earth’s atmosphere and gets brunt due to friction from our thick atmosphere. The meteor that you see is not in the space but the Earth’s atmosphere not more than 300 km above you. Since Earth would take 1 year to pass again through a particular region of debris – that’s why we witness meteor showers periodically every year during the same months.

The Comet

Perseids originate from the debris of Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. It takes 133 years to orbit around the Sun – a short-period comet coming from the Kuiper belt. Giovanni Schiaparelli in 1865 discovered that this comet was the source of the Perseids. Comet Swift-Tuttle last visited the inner solar system in 1992.

Comet was discovered by Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle in 1862. Swift-Tuttle is a large comet: with a nucleus of about 26 kilometers across. (This is almost twice the size of the object hypothesized to have led to the demise of the dinosaurs.)

According to Chinese, in 188, the comet reached an apparent magnitude 0.1. The observation was also recorded in 69 BC, and it was probably visible to the naked eye in 322 BC. In the discovery year of 1862, the comet was as bright as Pole star. The comet made a return appearance in 1992 when it was rediscovered by Japanese astronomer Tsuruhiko Kiuchi and became visible with binoculars. In 2126 it will be a bright naked-eye comet reaching about apparent magnitude 0.7.

How to see this cosmic firework?

Although Perseids appear to come from the constellation Perseus (thus the name), you can see the meteors in the whole sky – no matter where you are looking. You just have to look up.

Perseids will peak on 12th and 13th of August in India. However, they will continue to happen until the 24 of August. A meteor shower is best seen from late night to early morning hours – 00:00 to 02:00 am. On 12th and 13th – Moon will not create a hindrance, so you will have a chance from 9:00pm – that’s when the Moon will set in the west.

Lie flat on your back and look up, allowing your eyes several minutes to adjust before taking in as much of the sky as possible for at least an hour. You won’t need any special equipment or knowledge of the constellations to see the show.

After the Perseids, the next meteor shower will be in October, when the Orionids light up the sky. For now let us just wish for clear skies on 12th and 13th of August.

~AK

Published by Anand Krishna

Amateur astronomer and astrophotographer. Interested in astrophoto processing, astrostatistics, comet hunting, visual and radio astronomy.

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