- Meteor showers are created by Earth crossing the debris trail left by Comet Tempel-Tuttle during its 33.5-year orbit.
- The intensity of meteor showers varies over the years, resulting in meteor storms or more subdued displays.
- The most extraordinary meteor shower occurred in 1966, with tens of thousands of meteors raining down per hour.
- Meteor showers from 1999 to 2002 were also quite remarkable, featuring thousands of flashes every hour.
- While the current distance of Tempel-Tuttle limits the display to 10 to 15 meteors, the beauty of meteor showers never fails to captivate stargazers.
Witnessing the awe-inspiring beauty of a meteor shower is a celestial treat like no other. While not all meteor showers are equally impressive, some offer truly breathtaking displays. The mesmerizing annual sky show is orchestrated by Comet Tempel-Tuttle, as it traverses the solar system once every 33.5 years, leaving behind a trail of dust and debris. As Earth crosses this celestial wake each year, the cometary remnants blaze through the atmosphere, creating the enchanting spectacle we know as a meteor shower.
The intensity of these showers varies depending on the density of the debris trail, resulting in different levels of cosmic fireworks over the years. From meteor storms with tens of thousands of meteors per hour in 1966 to thousands of flashes every hour from 1999 to 2002, the meteor showers never fail to amaze. Although the current distance of Tempel-Tuttle from the sun limits the display to no more than 10 to 15 meteors, the cosmic magic continues to captivate stargazers worldwide.
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A Perseid meteor shower at Chapel of Garioch, near Aberdeen on Aug. 12, 2013. Geoffrey Robinson—Rex USA
A bright Geminid meteor falls from the sky over the summit of 14,505 foot Mount Whitney in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains on Dec. 14, 2011. Tony Rowell—Corbis
A multiple exposure of a Leonid meteor shower over Joshua Tree National Park. Tony Hallas—Science Faction/Corbis
Stonehenge during a Perseid meteor shower in Salisbury Plain, England on Aug. 13, 2013. Kieran Doherty—Reuters/Corbis
A Perseid meteor shower set against the Milky Way in Sebastopol, Calif. Ethan T. Allen—Zuma Press
Framed within Mobuis Arch, a Geminid meteor streaks through a starfilled sky above the Sierra Nevada mountains in California’s Eastern Sierra on. Tony Rowell—Corbis
A Leonid meteor shower, centered on Polaris, the North Star. The smoky residue of the meteor trails have been blown by upper atmospheric wind. The color shift is due to the meteoroid burning. Tony Hallas—Science Faction/Corbis
A Perseid meteor streaks across the sky over the Lovell Radio Telescope at Jodrell Bank in Holmes Chapel, England. Christopher Furlong—Getty Images
A multiple exposure of a Leonid meteor shower. Tony Hallas—Science Faction/Corbis