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Space Dust Turns Into Celestial Show Above San Antonio's Night Sky

Perseids.jpg
NASA

The Earth is currently passing through debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle, creating one of the best celestial shows of the year. The Perseids meteor shower peaks this week and lasts through Aug. 13.

Astronomer Lara Eakins, a program coordinator for the Astronomy Department at the University of Texas at Austin, explained that the Perseids come around every year.

Comet Swift-Tuttle is "a periodic comet that comes through the inner solar system," she said. "I think it's about every 130 years. And when we are going about our regular orbit around the Sun, we pass through that debris stream about the same time every year."

Eakins also explained what is in that debris stream.

"So the material shared by the comet is going to be what the comet is made of," she explained. "So typically speaking it's dust and ice and gases. This dusty material is going to be stuff that's actually components from the birth of the solar system. So it's going to be like dust, sand... stuff like that."

Eakins pointed out the best place to spot them from the San Antonio area.

"Generally speaking, the Perseids get their name because they appear to come from the constellation Perseus," she explained, "so to get the best view of the most number of meteors, you want to do it after Perseus, the constellation's above the horizon, which for us is going to be a little after midnight, and it will be sort of to the northeast."

Unfortunately the moon will interfere with the Perseids this week, shining brightly and blocking the view of some of the smaller meteors.

But there is a second peak viewing period on Aug. 17. That’s when the moon will not be visible, and there still should be some celestial fireworks to be seen in the sky.

Jerry Clayton can be reached at Jerry@tpr.org or on Twitter at @JerryClayton.

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