Numerous reports have stated that the upcoming Perseids meteor shower will be the brightest ever recorded in human history. NASA, however, says that’s not true – although it should still be impressive.
From Friday, August 11 to Sunday, August 13, the Perseids meteor shower will peak in the Northern Hemisphere, with up to 150 expected per hour. The meteors will originate from the Perseids constellation, which is where they get their name from.
The Perseids happens every year in August, when Earth passes through the debris left by Comet Swift-Tuttle.
While impressive, they will not be the brightest ever. In a blog post, NASA noted that the Moon will wash out most of the fainter meteors, so at best you’ll see a meteor every few minutes.
“A meteor every couple of minutes is good, and certainly worth going outside to look, but it is hardly the ‘brightest shower in human history,’” wrote Bill Cooke from NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office.
“We wish this were true… but no such thing is going to happen.”
So what is the brightest meteor shower ever in human history? Well, it’s difficult to know for sure, but the Leonids meteor shower in 1833 looks promising. During this event, it’s thought there were up to 100,000 meteors per hour, or about 20 to 30 meteors per second. That’s seriously impressive.
“Upwards of 100 lay prostrate on the ground… with their hands raised, imploring God to save the world and them,” a description of the event from A Handbook of Descriptive and Practical Astronomy, Volume 1, 1889 read. “The scene was truly awful; for never did rain fall much thicker than the meteors fell towards the Earth; east, west, north and south, it was the same.”
Astronomers would love to see such an event again. Sadly, this year’s meteor shower looks unlikely to be that incredible. But it will be impressive nonetheless, so if you get a chance, try and take a look at the night sky over the next few nights.
Remember to wrap up warm and give your eyes 20 minutes or so to adjust to the darkness. If you’re lucky, you may just spot a fair few meteors burning up in our atmosphere.