PERSEIDS PICTURES: Meteor Shower Streaks Across the Sky

  PERSEIDS PICTURES: Dazzling Meteor Shower Tonight
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August 12, 2009--A meteor slices through the sky during the annual Perseid meteor shower on August 11, 2009, over Vinton, California.

The Perseid meteor shower, like all meteor showers, happens when debris from a passing comet gets left behind in that object's orbit around the sun. When Earth passes through the debris, tiny particles get incinerated in our atmosphere.

(Related: "Perseid Meteor Shower to Yield 80 Meteors an Hour?")

Rates during the Perseids' peak, which will occur early this afternoon in the United States, may approach a hundred meteors an hour. Normally the Perseids fall at a peak rate of about 70 or 80 an hour.

That means people who missed the Perseids last night might still be in for a treat with tonight's sky show.

--Anne Minard
—Photograph by Kevin Clifford, AP
 

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