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Look up to see celestial fireworks tonight, Persied meteor shower set to peak

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One of the three strongest meteor showers, Perseids will be visible all over India and seen throughout the night.

Bengaluru: The Perseid meteor shower is all set to peak Monday night with strong activity time this year. Wherever you are in India, look up at the sky for some celestial fireworks.

When and where to watch

Perseids meteor shower — one of the three strongest annual ones, the other two being Quadrantids in January and Geminids in December — appear to originate around the constellation Perseus in the sky and hence its name. They will be visible all over India, and seen throughout the night.

Perseids are formed when the Earth passes through the path of the comet, which leaves a lot of dust and gas particles in its wake. As these particles hit our atmosphere, they burn up and give us our cosmic show.

The showers appear directly overhead, and on a clear night sky, you could expect to see about 60 meteors per hour. So the key is to pick a spot with less light pollution and find time when it is least cloudy.

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To enjoy meteor phenomena, you do not need any equipment at all. You can see both faint and bright meteors with the naked eye, making for easy viewing.

“The Perseids this year coincides with new moon, meaning moonlight isn’t going to interfere with the cosmic show,” Quanzhi Ye, postdoctoral fellow in astrophysics, California Institute of Technology, US, told ThePrint.

Perseids shower

Perseids is one of the most popular and easy to see showers, as Quadrantids are known for short and unpredictable peak, and Geminids can be challenging to catch due to the cold weather.

The earliest observation of Perseids’s parent body comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle dates back to 69 BC from ancient civilisations.

The shower’s history is significant. “The first complete mathematical model for a meteoroid stream was constructed just for Perseids. This was hardly possible without a long series of observations of the Perseids activity,” Galina Ryabova, a professor of astrophysics at Tomsk State University, Russia, told ThePrint.

Community event

Meteor shower watching and meteor counting is typically a fun exercise for young kids as well as college students. If inclined so, reliable observations and statistics can be communicated to Belgium-based International Meteor Organization for better records of the meteor activity every year. It’s an ideal way to enjoy the cosmic show as well as contribute to wider science and research in this area.

For most astronomers and scientists, these showers have been the first meteor watching experience.

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“For me, the Perseids are unique because they are reliable and easy: Reliable since every year, the shower is rich in meteors, and visible for more than one night. Easy because, as everybody who set out to see them have experienced them as seeing them is very simple,” Giovanni Valsecchi, senior scientist in astrophysics based at INAF, Rome, Italy, told ThePrint.

Scientists in different parts of the world monitor Perseids activity during its peak, like the one tonight and the past weekend, to ensure that the dust influx and densities aren’t threatening our valuable satellites and spacecraft.

Olympus, an ESA communication satellite, got decommissioned because of a hit from Perseid particle in 1993. Landsat-5, an imaging satellite jointly managed by NASA and the USGS, lost gyro stability during the peak of the Perseids in 2009.

In many ways, Perseids is the most impressive meteor shower for the naked eyes.

Aswin Sekhar is an Indian astrophysicist working for University of Oslo, Norway.

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