LIVE STREAM: Perseid Meteor Shower Peaks Tonight

By  //  August 12, 2013

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Mapping Tons of Meteoric Dust in the Sky

Live streaming video by Ustream

ABOVE VIDEO: The Perseid meteor shower will light up the skies tonight and NASA will live stream the comic debris in its full glory between 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. ET this week. The footage of the meteors will be broadcast through NASA’s Slooh Space Camera, which is a robotic camera that can be viewed online.

NASA.gov – Today, Aug. 12, 2013, will mark the annual Perseid meteor shower peak, filling the sky with streaks of light, commonly known as shooting stars.

Larger meteoroids cause bright flashes of light when they hit Earth's atmosphere, such as this fireball caught during the Perseid meteor shower Aug. 12, 2006. The bulk of meteoric activity is much less showy: Some 10 to 40 tons of meteor dust enter our atmosphere every day. (NASA image)

Larger meteoroids cause bright flashes of light when they hit Earth’s atmosphere, such as this fireball caught during the Perseid meteor shower Aug. 12, 2006. The bulk of meteoric activity is much less showy: Some 10 to 40 tons of meteor dust enter our atmosphere every day. (NASA image)

Such visually stunning showers are actually but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to meteoroids slamming into Earth’s atmosphere: Some 10 to 40 tons of material of invisible meteoric dust enters the atmosphere from interplanetary space every day.

The big showers like the Perseids, and later the Leonids in November, are caused when Earth and its atmosphere travels through a region of the sky filled with leftover debris lost by a particular comet.

In the case of the Perseids, the small fragments were ripped of the tail of comet Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the sun once every 130 years.

The fragments light up due to the immense friction created when they plough into the gas surrounding Earth.

Diego Janches

Diego Janches

Each such fragment is approximately the size of a dime, but the more constant, sporadic meteoroids have been around much longer, breaking down over time into tiny fragments only about as wide as a piece of human hair.

“This is interplanetary dust,” said Diego Janches, who studies micrometeoroids at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

“The fragments are either remnants from the solar system’s formation, or they are produced by collisions between asteroids or comets from long ago.”

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