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Perseid Meteor Shower 2021: When will it peak and how to watch fiery celestial phenomenon

The Perseid Meteor Shower will shoot across the sky from August 11 to 13
A Perseid meteor streaks across the sky over the planet Mars above the red sandstone area known as Little Finland, about 110 miles northeast of Las Vegas (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
A Perseid meteor streaks across the sky over the planet Mars above the red sandstone area known as Little Finland, about 110 miles northeast of Las Vegas (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

For those in the Northern Hemisphere, the Perseid meteor shower, one of the most beautiful and unique celestial occurrences, will be visible from August 11-13. The last meteor shower this year was the Lyrids that took place on Earth Day.

Aside from the Perseids, 2021 will be a treat for skywatchers, as the year featured the bright Quadrantid meteor showers, which are actually asteroid showers, and will feature the Moon in all its splendor- including three supermoons, one blue moon, and two lunar eclipses. Other celestial events lined up this year are the Draconid and Orionid showers in October and the Geminids in December, slated to be the strongest meteor showers this year.


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However, the Perseids are one of the brightest events in the Northern Hemisphere's skies with the quick onset of the 15 to 200 meteors in a span of a few hours. And this year, the annual event will be visible to the naked eye for the first time. Here's what's to know. 

When to watch Perseid meteor shower?

The Perseids will reach their highest point this year on Thursday, August 12, 2021, during daylight hours. The pre-dawn hours of Thursday, August 12, 2021, will be the closest darkness to that peak and therefore will be the best time to watch the Perseids.

Forbes suggests skywatchers begin their search at midnight, especially from a location with little light pollution. According to Sky & Telescope, the peak of the Perseids could last into the next night, so one can keep an eye out for them on Friday, August 13.


How to watch the Perseid meteor shower?

If the peak night is cloudy, look the night before or after—you'll almost certainly still see lots of Perseids, suggests Forbes, adding that the trick to successfully seeing "shooting stars" is lots of patience as well as the ability to ignore the smartphone's night vision-killing bright light.

There is no need for specific equipment or knowledge of the constellations. The best show will be provided by a clear, dark sky, according to Earth Sky. The article adds that the evening sky may, if luck provides, provide the viewer with an earthgrazer, a long, sluggish, colourful meteor that travels horizontally across the sky. Earthgrazer meteors are extremely rare, but they leave an indelible impression. Before midnight, when the radiant point of the shower is close to the horizon, Perseid earthgrazers occur.

How to live stream the Perseid meteor shower?

If you'd prefer to stay home to watch the showers, has a bunch of options you could pick. Between 10.45 pm and 11.45 pm EDT on Wednesday, the University of Texas at Austin's McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, Texas will broadcast a short livestream on their YouTube channel.

The NASA Marshall Space Flight Center is also set to livestream the Perseid showers from its skywatching cameras between 11 pm EDT Wednesday and 6 am EDT Thursday. Viewers can tune in via NASA Marshall's Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages.


The Perseid Meteor Shower 2021 are special

The absence of moonlight (due to its proximity to the New Moon) in the sky, which tends to reduce the amount of visible ‘shooting stars,' is by far the most important reason why everyone is excited about the Perseid meteor shower in 2021. Moonlight will not interfere because the Moon will be a thin crescent setting early in the evening.'

What is the Perseid Meteor Shower?

Running each year between July 17 and August 26, the Perseids come from leftover comet particles and bits of broken asteroids. These meteors, which are known for their brilliant fireballs in the night sky, leave a fiery trail every year as Earth passes through their debris field. The leftover remnants that leave their fiery trail across the skies comes from the Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the Sun once every 133 years. The comet hasn't visited the inner solar system since 1992, so there's little possibility it'll come close to Earth anytime soon.

The comet is named for Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle, who discovered it in 1862. It is about double the size of the asteroid that wiped off the dinosaurs. Small particles of dust reach the Earth's atmosphere at a high rate (about 60 km per second), heat up owing to friction with the air, and are destroyed in less than a second, resulting in "shooting stars." The superheated air around the meteor glows briefly and is visible from the ground as a streak of light. It happens around 50 miles/80 kilometers above.


History of the Perseid Meteor Shower

The Perseid meteor shower is named after the constellation Perseus, from which the meteors appear to originate. The constellation was named after the Greek demi-god Perseus the Hero, best known for killing the famed gorgon Medusa, who could turn anyone who looked into her eyes into stone. 

Perseus is the son of Zeus, the god, and Danae, a mortal. The Perseid shower is thought to commemorate the moment when Zeus visited Danae, Perseus' mother, in a shower of gold, according to Earth Sky. However, the constellation is not the source of the meteors.

Watch the Perseid Meteor Shower live stream here: