A Perseid meteor captured by the LIC1 camera of the Canary Long-Baseline Observatory (CILBO) on Tenerife in the early hours of 12 August 2020. The image-intensified (night vision) video camera, operated by ESA’s Meteor Research Group, provides a 22 x 28 degree field of view. The recordings allow researchers to determine the precise trajectory of each meteor and identify their orbit around the Sun and ultimately the body from which they originated.
Meteoroids are pieces of rock shed by comets or asteroids. Upon entering Earth’s atmosphere, they create the visual display called a meteor. The typical altitude of meteors is around 80 to 120 km above Earth's surface.
The annual Perseid meteor shower occurs in the months of July and August and peaks around mid-August. The Perseids are among the brightest meteor showers and probably the most popular among amateur observers in the Northern Hemisphere since they can be easily observed thanks to usually favourable weather conditions. In fact, observations of Perseids go back to at least 69 BCE.
The Perseids, essentially debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle, are named after the constellation Perseus as they appear to be coming from the direction of this constellation.
The ESA LIC1 camera spotted an overall 61 meteors on the night of 11 August, 45 of which were classified as Perseids. On the night of 10 August, it detected 37 meteors in total, about half of which were Perseids.
While the most famous, Perseids are not the most interesting meteor shower for the scientists. For example the Leonids, which occur in mid-November, can every approximately 33 years cause meteor storms with 1000 meteors crossing the atmosphere every hour.