Perseid Meteor Shower 2020: Peak dates, how to see them in August

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DETROIT – The annual Perseid Meteor Shower is set to light up the sky this week!

Here's what you need to know:

When is the 2020 Perseid Meteor Shower?

The meteor shower will peak on the night of August 11-12.

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Watch during the mid-to-late evening hours on August 10, 11 and 12, before moonrise. Take that, moon! You won’t see as many meteors as at the peak morning hours before dawn. But you will see some meteors! Moreover, the evening hours are more likely to present an earthgrazer: a long, slow, colorful meteor traveling horizontally across the evening sky.

Where can I see them in Metro Detroit?

Well, it's not impossible to see them if you're in Detroit, but your best chance is to head out to the suburbs.

Here's more from The key to seeing a meteor shower is "to take in as much sky as possible," Cooke said. Go to a dark area, in the suburbs or countryside, and prepare to sit outside for a few hours. It takes about 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark, and the longer you wait outside, the more you'll see. A rate of 150 meteors per hour, for instance, means two to three meteors per minute, including faint streaks along with bright, fireball-generating ones.

So what are meteors?

Actually, they are technically called meteoroids. Surprisingly, most meteoroids are little pieces of rock from space that are about as big as a single grape nuts cereal nugget! They hit our atmosphere fifty to seventy-five miles up at an astounding 25,000 to 160,000 mph (evening meteoroids tend to be slower than ones that arrive in the late night hours).

When the meteoroid collides with air molecules, its high level of kinetic energy rapidly ionizes and excites a long, thin column of atmospheric atoms along the meteoroid's path, creating a flash of light visible from the ground below. This column, or meteor trail, is usually less than a yard in diameter, but will be tens of miles long.

Annual meteor showers like the Perseids occur because the earth passes through the stream of debris leftover when comets flew by a long time ago (the debris trail that we’re passing through now is from Comet Swift-Tuttle).

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