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Visualize the Perseid meteor stream in space

Solar system chart with Earth intersecting line of dots representing the Perseid meteor stream.
Earth intersects with the Perseid meteor stream around August 12 of every year. Image via Click on this interactive page to see the meteors move.

Tool to visualize the Perseid meteor stream

This visualization uses NASA data to render known Perseid meteoroids as they move through the space of our solar system. What’s a meteoroid? It’s just a bit of debris in space before it has entered Earth’s atmosphere and vaporized, thereby becoming a meteor or fiery streak in our night sky. Meteors originate in the bodies of comets. The Perseids, in particular, come from Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, which last visited the inner solar system in 1992. Ian Webster developed this visualization of the Perseid meteor stream in space in 2020, using meteor data provided by astronomer Peter Jenniskens. Webster got help from the SETI Institute, too. The goal was to make understanding the natural phenomenon of meteor showers easier.

You can also see the visualization for other meteor showers; see the dropdown menu at the upper left of the page.

What’s so cool about the interactive page of this visualization? It’s always great to have an aid for picturing a three-dimensional aspect of outer space. This visualization is especially effective because it lets you click into the view from various perspectives.

See the meteor stream from other vantage points

Another view is to “Follow Earth.” That option is available at the upper left of the page. Turn off the orbits at the upper right so you don’t get dizzy, and watch the blue dot in the center that is the earth as the meteors invade. Another view shown below is the Perseid meteor stream as seen from Earth. Be sure to visit the page to see the meteors coming toward you!

Diagram of extremely oblique Earth orbit with stream of white particles sweeping almost vertically across it.
Perseid meteor stream from Earth’s perspective in space. Click on the interactive page to see the meteors coming toward you. Click the box in the upper left that says “Watch from Earth.” Visualization via Ian Webster.

Bottom line: Two screenshots from Ian Webster and Peter Jenniskens’ wonderful visualization showing Perseid meteoroids in space.

August 1, 2022
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