Nick Cote/The New York Times

August 23, 2023

Perseid Meteor Shower Peaked in Visibility, Frequency This August

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The Perseid meteor shower — often considered one of the best meteor showers of the year — reached its pinnacle in both visibility and frequency for Northeast observers during the night of Aug. 12 to Aug. 13, including in Tompkins County. 

According to a report from — as documented by the experts at the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada — the shower was at its strongest around 4 a.m. that night, where viewers had the potential to witness up to 60 meteors per hour. 

Unlike the previous year, where the Perseid shower’s visibility was notably obstructed by the intense moonlight, this year’s lunar situation was much more favorable. This August, the moon was only eight percent illuminated and just a mere three days away from a new moon phase while the meteor showers were visible. These circumstances resulted in significantly diminished light pollution in the night sky, allowing the chance for a much clearer viewing than in the past.

The Perseid meteor shower takes place annually, reaching its zenith, or apex, in early to mid-August as the Earth passes through the Perseid meteoroid stream. Named for its apparent origin within the Perseus constellation, the Perseid shower is the visible result of small debris, no larger than pebbles, originating from the comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. Every year, when Earth passes through these debris trails, the comet fragments collide with the Earth’s atmosphere at high speeds, incinerating in the process as they reach temperatures of over 1600 degrees Celsius. They leave behind the trails of electrified, ionized air that streak light and color across the late summer night sky.

Alongside December’s Geminids, the Perseid meteor shower stands as one of the two most consistently observable and robust meteor showers each year.

In clear skies, Cornell students and local Ithaca residents had the opportunity to witness the shower by seeking out a dark area with an unobstructed view of the celestial expanse and waiting patiently. Any presence of moonlight, obstructions including cloud cover, or light pollution would have diminished the visibility of the meteor display. 

Jonathan Mong is a reporter from The Cornell Daily Sun who participated in The Sun’s summer fellowship at The Ithaca Voice.