Fireball Heralds Arrival of Meteor Shower

HUNTSVILLE, Ala., Aug. 10 (UPI) — The annual Perseid meteor shower, which peaks this week, announced itself with a bright, streaking fireball over Alabama, observers said.

NASA officials said a meteor just 1 inch wide lit up the sky while streaking through the Earth’s atmosphere last week, The Christian Science Monitor reported Tuesday.

Sky-watching cameras operated by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., captured the fireball, the online newspaper said.

“It’s a very good start to this year’s Perseid meteor shower, which will peak on the night of Aug. 12-13 between midnight and dawn,” explained NASA spokeswoman Janet Anderson in a statement from the center.

NASA said the meteor qualified as a so-called Earth-grazing meteor, a space rock that enters the planet’s atmosphere at a low angle, from the point of view of a sky watcher, and appears to flame slowly and dramatically along the horizon.

The Perseid shower is an annual event in mid-August when Earth passes close to the orbit of the Comet Swift-Tuttle.

Material left behind by the comet slams into the Earth’s atmosphere at about 37 miles per second, creating a regular show of “shooting stars.”

Comet Swift-Tuttle was discovered in 1862 and most recently observed in 1992. It takes about 130 years to orbit the sun.

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