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August 10, 2012

By Rachel L. Smith

Research & Collections

A shower of space rocks is on its way to Earth.

If skies are clear, the annual Perseid Meteor Shower will be visible in the evening hours of August 11 to August 13. Historically, the Perseids create a magnificent astronomical light show of “shooting stars”  — streaks of light caused by dust particles ejected from the comet Swift-Tuttle as the Earth passes through the comet’s debris trail. The particles burn up and produce brilliant streams of light as they enter the Earth’s atmosphere.

The Perseid shower has been observed for roughly 200o years, and is visible each year, primarily in the Northern Hemisphere, between August 9 and 14, depending on the particular cometary stream location in a given year. This year, meteor rates are expected to be as high as 100 per hour, and are best viewed during the hours just before dawn.

This year, there will be an additional…

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