August 19, 2011
The bright star Arcturus was in the background near the horizon when astronaut Ron Garan snapped a picture of a Perseid meteor diving toward Earth.
Almost every human who has ever lived at least had the opportunity to observe August’s famed Perseid meteor shower from the ground up.
But for a select few men and women fortunate enough to have flown in orbit around the planet, a glimpse of them falling to the Earth below has been possible.
Such was the case on Saturday, August 13, 2011, when NASA astronaut Ron Garan captured the striking image to the right of one of this year’s Perseids dive-bombing in front of his camera.
Fortunately, the chunk of comet debris probably burned up entirely on its journey through the atmosphere.
The source of the annual Perseids is the debris trail left behind comet Swift-Tuttle, which completes one orbit around the sun every 130 years.
Most of the meteors that that come out of that trail are about one thousand years old.
But there is also a much younger filament of dust that fell off Swift-Tuttle’s stream in 1862, which produces some of the greatest number of “shooting stars” when Earth’s orbit passes through the debris field.
The meteor shower usually peaks between August 9 and 15, depending on where the debris is relative to Earth’s orbit around the sun.
During the peak, 60 or more meteors can be seen every hour in areas away from city lights and when the moon doesn’t interfere with viewing.
Full story and photo: NASA