A Beautiful Summertime Meteor Shower

August 4, 2014

Whether you regularly watch the stars or just hope to have a moment to stargaze, the Perseid meteor shower is the event to see. Peaking during the summer months, this meteor shower is beloved among sky watchers because it’s perfect to view while camping under the stars. This year in 2014, the Perseids can be seen between July 17 and August 24, and will be the brightest and most numerous August 10 through 13.

I took this opportunity to flex my illustrative muscles and create a visual of the Perseids. It shows the radiant pattern that the meteors appear in. Their name comes from the constellation Perseus, as they seem to be radiating from the sword of Perseus. In reality the meteors are debris from a comet called the Swift-Tuttle. The shower promises to be a great display, with 50 – 100 meteors per hour during the zentithal hourly rate.

Wait, what’s “zentithal hourly rate”? Let’s learn some meteor jargon!

Antihelion: a direction opposite the sun
Fireballs: meteors that appear brighter than the surrounding stars
Meteoroid: space dust from a comet or asteroid
Meteor: when a meteoroid burns up brightly in the atmosphere
meteorite: a Meteoroid that has survived the fall through the atmosphere and lands on Earth
Waxing: refers to the moon’s phase, when it is most illuminated and may interfere with meteor viewing
Zentithal Hourly Rate (ZHR): the rate of meteors seen if observing with the radiant directly overhead