The Perseids will put on a show for us, but it won't be the most spectacular meteor shower in a very long time as some are claiming.
You’ve probably seen a lot of the headlines about the upcoming peak of the Perseid meteor shower, and many have incorrectly labeled it the “brightest shower in recorded human history.” But that’s not the case at all.
The statement appears to come from some meme circulating on the Internet, so it’s impossible to tell who started it, but it certainly didn’t come from NASA. Instead, the Perseids will be pretty ordinary, with 80 or so meteors per hours. And since the moon will be a waning gibbous moon, it’ll be hard to see even those.
The Perseids are caused by the Earth passing through debris left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle, which happens every year at around the same time — between July 17 and Sept. 1, with the peak in August.
“At NASA, we get very excited about many astronomical events — to name just a few, the return of Halley’s Comet back in 1985/86; the impact of the fragments of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 with Jupiter in 1992; the Leonid meteor storms of 1998, 1999, 2001 and 2002; and, of course, the upcoming total solar eclipse on Aug. 21 of this year,” reads a blog post from NASA. “Some of these events get blown a bit out of proportion. A classic example is that every time Mars comes to opposition (closest approach to Earth), the internet reverberates with the very false statement that Mars will appear as large as the Moon at that time. Nothing could be farther from the truth, as Mars, at its very closest to Earth, appears only 1/70th the apparent diameter of the Moon.
“This year we have a new one — reports are circulating that this year’s Perseids will be the “brightest shower in recorded human history,” lighting up the night sky and even having some meteors visible during the day. We wish this were true… but no such thing is going to happen.”