Update August 11, 2016:
Photos added from this year's showers thus far.
2016 has already been a year jam-packed with astronomical record-breakers, from NASA's arrival in Jupiter's orbit
to the appearance of the rare Strawberry Moon
. Now, everyone is buzzing about another event that's set to occur this week: the Perseid meteor outburst.
You might have heard of or even seen the Perseid meteor shower before, since it's an annual August occurrence. However, this year, NASA predicts
that a rare Perseid meteor outburst could occur for the first time since 2009.
Perseid meteors, so named because they come from the direction of the Perseus constellation, are pieces of a comet called Swift-Tuttle. The meteor shower happens when Earth comes into contact with the 16-mile-wide comet
's tail. An outburst occurs every so often when the Earth travels through the middle of that debris, as opposed to just at its edge, NASA says
. (And if you're wondering, there's virtually no chance
that we'll ever have an Armageddon
-style impact with the comet — just these meteor showers.)
An outburst is a much more intense meteor shower, where there are hundreds of meteors flashing through the sky each hour. According to EarthSky
, the number of meteors this year is estimated to be double that of past years. So it's definitely something you'll want to see.
The ideal time to see the most meteors will be between midnight and early morning on August 12, NASA says
, but it's still worth it to stargaze earlier this week and in the nights following, since you could see additional action.
You can also check out NASA's live stream
of the outburst at 10 p.m. on August 12.
Click through to see the gorgeous photos that people have already taken of the shower. Whether you're outdoors or inside, get ready for double the beauty tonight, when the sky will put on quite a show.
This piece was originally published August 8, 2016.