The Perseids meteor shower is set to make a dazzling appearance this Sunday. Astronomers estimate as many as 60 meteors could fly through the sky every hour, and the annual event should be extra special this year for a few other reasons.
Digital Journal — As meteors hit the Earth's atmosphere at high speed and burn up, high streaks will paint the sky in this weekend's Perseids meteor shower.
The Perseids come around every year in mid-August and shooting stars, or meteor showers, are visible for many days.
If you are a star chaser, the meteor showers can be seen tonight or Monday night, but this year's best day to soak in the darkness is Sunday and very early Monday morning. Sunday is the optimal viewing day because there will be very little or no moonlight to spoil the display, and there will be no shortage of shooting stars — as many as 60 per hour.
This year's star show will also be spectacular because Mars will be a bright red dot in the northeastern sky.
Meteor showers are among the most popular viewing experiences because you don't need a telescope; the best viewing experience comes with the naked eye.
The meteors that strike Earth every year in August are remnants of the Swif-Tuttle comet. The pieces of dirt were left behind after the comet came close to the sun, and Earth orbits around the sun to the same place in space every summer.
Comets were formed during the formation of the sun, Earth and other planets in the early days of the creation of the solar system.
Andrew Fraknoi, chair of the astronomy program at Foothill College, told the San Jose Mercury News, "This dirt has been frozen inside this chunk of cosmic ice for five billion years." It hits our atmosphere at speeds of 31 miles per second and burns up, and as Fraknoi says, "you're seeing one of the original particles of the solar system burning."
For viewing tips and facts about Perseids, check out past coverage on Digital Journal.