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Local / State

Perseid Meteor Shower To Put on Show Tonight

meteor_shower.jpg
NASA/JPL
An outburst of Perseid meteors lights up the sky in August 2009 in this time-lapse image. Stargazers expect a similar outburst during next week’s Perseid meteor shower, which will be visible overnight on Aug. 11 and 12. ";

This is a big week for stargazers.

Thursday night into early Friday, the annual Perseid meteor shower is expected to peak with double the normal number of meteors called an outburst.

Craig Joseph, director of the planetarium and observatory at St. Petersburg College, says you don't need special equipment to catch the show.

“If you are in a dark location, looking up, you don't need a telescope or anything,” Joseph said. “About every minute or two you'll see a streak in the sky -- a meteor.”

This Swift-Tuttle meteor shower could reach speeds up to 200 meteors an hour. But Joseph says the source of the shower is tiny.

“A meteor is actually caused by just a tiny little sand-sized grain of rock that is actually being incinerated in the earth's atmosphere because it is traveling so fast,” he said.

Prime viewing should be in the pre-dawn hours of Friday, after the moon sets. The last Perseid outburst was in 2009, so Joseph admits he's excited.

“Even me as a seasoned astronomer, I still get a kick out of seeing a meteor show, or even a meteor in the sky,” he said.