One of the year’s most impressive meteor showers is due to return on Sunday, August 12 at midnight, as a trail of debris left by a comet passes by the earth. There should be one or two meteors per minute.

In New Scientist, Anna Davison explains that “The meteors are cast-offs from Comet Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the Sun every 135 years and last swept through the inner solar system in 1992. Comets are made up of ice and dust, and as they approach the Sun, the ice begins to evaporate, releasing dust that streams in a tail behind the comet. Earth’s orbit takes it through the tail of the comet every summer in the northern hemisphere, bombarding the planet with meteors. Most are no bigger than a grain of sand, but they burn spectacularly as they shoot through our atmosphere at 60 [approx. 40 miles] kilometers per second.”

She quotes NASA astronomer Bill Cooke as saying, “They are among the most beautiful of meteors.”

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