2008 Perseid Shower

The annual Perseid meteor shower occurs when debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle intercepts the Earth at a high velocity. This debris is somewhat diffuse, so we see activity for many days on either side of the peak.

2008 Perseids Composite This is a composite image of 311 meteors collected between sunset on August 10 through sunrise on August 13 - that is, the night of the peak and one night on each side. Since the images were collected over many hours, the radiant of the shower is not in a fixed location. However, because most of the meteors occurred between 3am and dawn, and because the radiant's high declination means it doesn't move fast, most of the meteors appear to point back to the same general area of the sky - just above the left center of the image. Note also that meteors farther from the radiant tend to make longer trails, since they have a smaller component of their velocity towards the camera. I didn't analyze every meteor in this image; it is likely that about 20 of these meteors are sporadic events unrelated to the Perseid shower.

We've had a strong monsoonal flow here in the last week, and most nights have been very cloudy. Fortunately, the peak night of August 11/12 was very clear, although the Moon interfered somewhat. Of the 311 meteors captured here, 42 were recorded on August 10/11, 152 on August 11/12, and 117 on August 12/13.

Long string-like images are stars or planets captured as they traveled across the sky over many hours. The Moon and Jupiter can be seen trailing across the sky in the lower right corner. Bright star trails are evident for Capella, Aldeberan, Debeb, Vega, and Altair.

Fireball videos:

This graph plots the distribution of meteors on August 11/12, the peak night. Local sunrise was at UT 12:15, with twilight starting about UT 11:15. It is interesting that the shower didn't show a single peak, but rather it seems to have swung between periods of high and low activity over the evening.

2008 Perseid Distribution


© Copyright 2008, Chris L Peterson. All rights reserved.