Jane Houston Jones: What's Up for August. The Perseids and a Comet ISON update.
Hello and welcome. I'm Jane Houston Jones from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
If you've never seen a meteor shower, the summer Perseids are a great introduction.
Meteor showers are the colorful debris of a comet or sometimes the debris of a fragmented asteroid.
When a comet nears the sun, its icy surface heats up and releases clouds of gas and dirt
forming a tail of debris that can stretch for millions of miles.
As Earth passes near this dusty tail, some of the small dust particles hit our atmosphere and burn up
creating great celestial fireworks for us to enjoy.
The Perseids, the most popular meteor shower of the year, will peak Monday, August 12.
The meteor shower radiates from the constellation Perseus, which rises in the northeast after sunset.
Just follow the Milky Way from the south to the north to find it.
You'll see some Perseids all month long, before and after midnight.
But you'll see the greatest number of meteors after midnight on Sunday and Monday mornings
on either side of the shower's peak.
With clear, dark skies up to 100 meteors per hour are projected.
But even if you don't see hundreds, you'll see plenty of fast, bright Perseids.
Jones: Comet ISON, which was visible at a very faint magnitude 15 point 5 from January through May
is expected to be visible through small telescopes in late August.
It should be visible low in the predawn sky, in the constellation Cancer near M 44, the Beehive Cluster.
How bright will it be? Will its debris create its own meteor shower?
Stay tuned for more news in the coming months.
You can read more about small bodies such as comets and asteroids at
And you can read about all of NASA's missions at http://www.nasa.gov.
That's all for this month. I'm Jane Houston Jones.
Page Editor: Luis Espinoza