Shooting stars in the night sky

In the coming days numerous shooting stars can be observed in the sky again. The Perseids, which can be admired regularly in July and August, reach their maximum this year on the night of August 13, just after 1 a.m. Due to the full moon on August 12, however, the meteors can only be seen to a very limited extent.

The radiant – the apparent origin of the “shooting star shower” – lies with the Perseids in the constellation Perseus. Actually, the meteors came from a cloud of debris along the path of comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. Around this time each year, Earth’s orbit crosses that of the comet, collecting debris that becomes visible in the evening sky as shooting stars.

At the time of the maximum, the moon is in the constellation Aquarius, so that one should switch to the noticeably brightened northern sky as an observation field. At the beginning of the night the radiant already reaches a height of about 30 degrees above the horizon. The average time of the maximum this year is also with smaller deviations at a solar longitude of about 140 degrees. Under optimal conditions, around 100 meteors can be observed per hour. However, due to the disturbance from the moon, the number of meteors to be observed is reduced this time.

Simultaneously with the Perseids, the Kappa-Cygnids meteor shower is active. The maximum occurs on August 17, with the radiant at a sufficient altitude throughout the night. The rates are then around three meteors per hour. A pronounced maximum is not predicted for this year. Increased activity of this stream was recorded in 2007, 2014 and 2021.

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