The Perseid meteor shower peaks this week and Central Florida stargazers will have optimal viewing conditions.
At peak activity, the meteor shower could produce up to 100 meteors per hour at 38 miles per second, according to NASA.
Seminole State College Planetarium Director Derek Demeter explains the meteor shower happens every summer as Earth orbits through a debris field of a comet called Swift-Tuttle. As pieces of ice and dust from the comet hit Earth’s atmosphere it creates a beautiful display of meteors.
The meteor shower is named after the Perseus Constellation because that’s the radiant point, or where the meteors appear to be coming from.
“When you look up at the sky you’ll see meteors streaking across the sky all from that area which we call Perseid, hence the name,” Demeter said.
The annual Perseid meteor shower is famous because there is a higher chance of “fireballs.”
“A fireball is essentially a much, much brighter meteor that can even be seen in really light-polluted place like Orlando,” Demeter said. “So if you’re here in the city you might see this huge greenish glow shoot across the sky.”
Demeter said to view the spectacular show of the Perseids it’s best to view overnight or in the early morning hours. All you need is a clear sky and to step outside and look up. If you are lucky enough to get away from light pollution created by houses and buildings your view will be even better.
“You’ll have a higher chance of seeing them if you look to the northeast after midnight that’s kind of where Perseus will be in the sky,” Demeter said.
The meteor shower peak actually continues throughout the rest of the week and while there is always a chance to spot a meteor your chances are much greater during the Perseid meteor shower.
The shooting stars are a great reminder of Earth’s place in the universe, explains Demeter.
“You have this comet that’s orbiting the sun, we’re orbiting around the sun and this comet is very, very far away, millions and millions of miles away and that dust that is coming off the comet is finally hitting us,” Demeter said. “So we’re actually seeing space dust that’s burning up in our atmosphere.”
News 6 meteorologist Candace Campos said from Wednesday into Thursday conditions will be optimal in Central Florida to step outside and look up. The peak is Thursday from 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. and the sky will be mostly clear with temperatures in the upper 70s.
View the full pinpoint Perseid Meteor Shower forecast below:
The Emil Buehler Planetarium at Seminole State College is beginning plans for its first in-person events since the pandemic starting in October. Follow the planetarium and Demeter on Facebook for upcoming events.
You can also learn more from Demeter in the Seminole Space Science series on YouTube.