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Look Up! The Perseid Meteor Shower is Here

Skywatchers around the world are gearing up for the famous August Perseid meteor shower, which peaks August 11 through 13 and promises to be the best celestial fireworks show of the year.

The Perseids grace our skies when Earth plows into a stream of fragments—ranging in size from sand grains to boulders—left behind by a comet. These particles slam into the atmosphere at speeds of 100,000 miles (160,000 kilometers) per hour, causing the meteors to burn up in the upper atmosphere, which produces a momentary streak across the overhead skies known as a shooting star.

"As the Earth passes through the dust trail of comets, it encounters debris—some of which can be the size of grapefruit or larger—which [then] can cause fireballs," said Raminder Singh Samra, resident astronomer at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre in Vancouver, British Columbia. "The chances of seeing fireballs always increase when there is a strong meteor shower like this one," he added.

Expectations this year are particularly high for the Perseids because the waxing crescent moon will set early, allowing even the fainter meteors to be seen, explained Samra.

sources 1, 2, 3