Biggest meteor shower of the year peaks this week

Updated: Aug. 10, 2016 at 8:08 PM CDT
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(WAFF) - The Perseids are over Alabama. It's the biggest meteor shower of the year, and it peaks Thursday and Friday nights.

The Perseids appear every August when the Earth travels through trails of debris left behind by an ancient comet. Those meteors are traveling at more than 130,000 mph at temperatures between 3,000 and 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

"Forecasters are predicting a Perseid outburst this year with double the normal rates on August 11-12. Under perfect conditions, rates could soar to 200 meteors per hour," said  Marshall Space Flight Center's Bill Cooke with NASA's Meteoroid Environments Office.

An outburst is a meteor shower with more meteors than usual. The last Perseid outburst was seven years ago.

"Here's something to think about. The meteors you'll see this year are from comet flybys that occurred hundreds if not thousands of years ago and they've traveled billions of miles before their kamikaze run into Earth's atmosphere," Cooke said.

NASA experts say the best way to see the Perseids is to go outside between midnight and dawn on Friday morning. The best time is after 1 a.m. Experts say to allow about 45 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark, lie on your back and look straight up.

Increased activity may also be seen on Friday and Saturday.

For stargazers who experience cloudy or light-polluted skies, a live broadcast of the Perseid meteor shower will be available via Ustream overnight on Aug. 11-12 and Aug. 12-13 beginning at 9 p.m. If you miss them then, you may get a chance through August 24 when the celestial show ends.

You can watch live meteors or ones that have passed at this link. If you see a fireball, report it here.

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