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Unusual 'Outburst' Of Shooting Stars Expected During Perseid Meteor Shower

Perseid meteors
(Photo courtesy of NASA/JPL)
Perseid meteors in August 2009.

The Perseid meteor shower peaks late Thursday and early Friday morning. The annual show is expected to be extraordinary this year.

The Perseids take place each summer when Earth’s orbit crosses a cloud of leftover comet debris. Particles the size of a sand grain burn up in the atmosphere, creating shooting stars.

This year astronomers expect twice as many as usual — perhaps two or three a minute.

Kevin Schindler of Lowell Observatory explains this so-called “outburst” is caused by Jupiter’s gravity.

"This year is particularly good because Jupiter has pushed that cloud of Perseid debris around a little bit, so now it’s going to be closer to where Earth is going to intersect it," said Schindler.

The best viewing will be after midnight (when the moon sets) and before dawn on Friday. Shooting stars will radiate from the constellation Perseus, which rises in the northeast. The shower will continue but taper off over the next two weeks.

Viewing Tips From NASA

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Melissa Sevigny is a reporter at KNAU in Flagstaff.