Image: View of Perseid meteor shower
Roberto Porto
Veteran astrophotographer Roberto Porto snapped this spectacular view of a Perseid meteor over Mount Tiede National Park in the Canary Islands off the west coast of Africa on Aug. 11, 2012 during the peak of the 2012 Perseid meteor shower. The Milky Way and rock arch Zapata de la Reina (Queen's Shoe) are visible.
updated 8/12/2012 12:18:30 PM ET 2012-08-12T16:18:30

This story was updated at 2:21 p.m. ET.

A weekend meteor shower lit up the night sky with a fiery "shooting star" display to the delight of stargazers and space photographers around the world.

The annual Perseid meteor shower peaked in the wee hours of Sunday, Aug. 12, providing a dazzling celestial light show for stargazers lucky enough to have dark skies and clear weather for the event.

"We saw some shooting stars in The Hague, Holland," stargazer Jocelyn Jones told in an email today. "Super cool!"

  1. Space news from
    1. KARE
      Teen's space mission fueled by social media

      Science editor Alan Boyle's blog: "Astronaut Abby" is at the controls of a social-media machine that is launching the 15-year-old from Minnesota to Kazakhstan this month for the liftoff of the International Space Station's next crew.

    2. Buzz Aldrin's vision for journey to Mars
    3. Giant black hole may be cooking up meals
    4. Watch a 'ring of fire' solar eclipse online

The Perseid meteor shower has been observed by humans for at least 2,000 years. It occurs each year in late July and early August when the Earth passes through a trail of dust and ice from the comet Swift-Tuttle. This dusty debris slams into Earth's atmosphere at more than 130,000 miles per hour and burns up, creating the fiery meteors seen by observers.

From the ground, the Perseids appear to radiate out of the constellation Perseus, hence their name.

A perfect Perseids night
While Jones did not send in photos of the Perseid meteors over Holland, many other observers did. In California, night sky observer Maxim Senin celebrated his first clear Perseid meteor shower after years of attempts. [ Photos of the 2012 Perseid Meteor Shower ]

"It was an almost perfect night for Perseids observations, with temperatures in the high 70s and 80s," Senin wrote in an email. "It was a night anyone could stay out for hours, and even sleep outside."

Senin's photo shows a Perseid visible over the Los Angeles National Forest just north of Castaic. The meteor shines through the haze of lights from Los Angeles in the distance, which appear brighter than they actually were due to Senin's long exposure time.

Senin said he was with a group of 50 stargazers organized by the Los Angeles Sidewalk Astronomers club hoping to see the Perseids. He saw at least 20 bright Perseids during the night. 

"In the beginning everyone was cheering and 'oooo'-ing for each meteor they saw, but there were so many after a while people stopped the oooos for the faint and short ones," Senin said.

Other meteor shower observers sent in photos from more remote locales.

In the Canary Islands off the west coast of Africa, veteran astrophotographer Roberto Porto had his spot all picked out on Tenerife, but was concerned that an island dust storm (called a Calima) might hamper his night sky view. Those fears, he said, turned out to be unfounded.

"The dark sky of Mount Teide National Park gave [us] a few hours ago this beautiful image: a bright Perseid meteor over the Arch known as the Zapata da la Reina (Queen's Show) and the Milky Way," Porto said. also received photos of the 2012 Perseid meteor shower from across the United States, as well as from observers in Finland, Spain and Hungary. Late Saturday night, NASA held an all-night webchat to broadcast live views of the Perseids for those stargazers who weren't graced with clear skies. 

Astronomer Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office led the webchat. His team anticipated seeing up to 100 meteors an hour (under the best observing conditions) during the Perseids peak.

A rooftop view
Stargazer Rowena Zimmers of Saint Charles, Illinois, didn't snap a photo of the Perseids, but she did capture the awe of her two sons as her family watched the meteor shower from their home.

"Our boys were so excited to watch the meteor shower!" Zimmers wrote in an email. "We saw many within 30 minutes, including 2 bright flashes!"

Zimmers' family even took a nap break before waking up at 3:30 a.m. today to see the Perseids again. This time, they got an extra show.

"As we walked out onto the roof of our home, it was neat to see Jupiter & Venus!" Zimmers said. Venus and Jupiter are currently offering a predawn sky show for early-bird stargazers.

Image: Perseid meteor
Tyler Leavitt
Photographer Tyler Leavitt captured this bright Perseid meteor on Aug. 12 as it lit up the sky just outside of Las Vegas, Nevada, during the peak of the 2012 Perseid meteor shower.

If you missed the Perseids early Sunday, don't fret. You can still catch them tonight, weather permitting.

"For those who missed the shower on the night of Aug. 11-12, you can still see Perseids on the night of Aug. 12-13," NASA officials said in an advisory. "The rates will be lower, approximately 40 per hour."

The Perseid meteor shower may be one of the most dependable meteor shower displays of the year, but it's not the last event of 2012. On Oct. 21, the annual Orionid meteor shower will hit its peak, offering stargazers a change to see dust from the famed Halley's Comet light up the night sky.

In November, the annual Leonid meteor shower returns. It peaks on Nov. 17. In December, the Geminid meteor shower will close out the year's celestial light shows with a peak on Dec. 13 and 14.

Editor's note: If you snapped an amazing photo of the 2012 Perseid meteor shower, or any other night sky event, that you'd like to share for a possible story or image gallery, send images and comments (including name and location) to managing editor Tariq Malik at

This story was updated to correct the name of stargazer Jocelyn Jones and to include more detail's of Maxim Senin's observations in California.

You can follow Managing Editor Tariq Malik on Twitter@tariqjmalik and on Twitter @Spacedotcom. We're also on Facebook & Google+.

© 2013 All rights reserved. More from

Photos: Month in Space: January 2014

loading photos...
  1. Southern stargazing

    Stars, galaxies and nebulas dot the skies over the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Paranal Observatory in Chile, in a picture released on Jan. 7. This image also shows three of the four movable units that feed light into the Very Large Telescope Interferometer, the world's most advanced optical instrument. Combining to form one larger telescope, they are greater than the sum of their parts: They reveal details that would otherwise be visible only through a telescope as large as the distance between them. (Y. Beletsky / ESO) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A balloon's view

    Cameras captured the Grandville High School RoboDawgs' balloon floating through Earth's upper atmosphere during its ascent on Dec. 28, 2013. The Grandville RoboDawgs’ first winter balloon launch reached an estimated altitude of 130,000 feet, or about 25 miles, according to coaches Mike Evele and Doug Hepfer. It skyrocketed past the team’s previous 100,000-feet record set in June. The RoboDawgs started with just one robotics team in 1998, but they've grown to support more than 30 teams at public schools in Grandville, Mich. (Kyle Moroney / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Spacemen at work

    Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov, right, and Sergey Ryazanskiy perform maintenance on the International Space Station on Jan. 27. During the six-hour, eight-minute spacewalk, Kotov and Ryazanskiy completed the installation of a pair of high-fidelity cameras that experienced connectivity issues during a Dec. 27 spacewalk. The cosmonauts also retrieved scientific gear outside the station's Russian segment. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Special delivery

    The International Space Station's Canadian-built robotic arm moves toward Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Cygnus autonomous cargo craft as it approaches the station for a Jan. 12 delivery. The mountains below are the southwestern Alps. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Accidental art

    A piece of art? A time-lapse photo? A flickering light show? At first glance, this image looks nothing like the images we're used to seeing from the Hubble Space Telescope. But it's a genuine Hubble frame that was released on Jan. 27. Hubble's team suspects that the telescope's Fine Guidance System locked onto a bad guide star, potentially a double star or binary. This caused an error in the tracking system, resulting in a remarkable picture of brightly colored stellar streaks. The prominent red streaks are from stars in the globular cluster NGC 288. (NASA / ESA) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Supersonic test flight

    A camera looking back over Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo's fuselage shows the rocket burn with a Mojave Desert vista in the background during a test flight of the rocket plane on Jan. 10. Cameras were mounted on the exterior of SpaceShipTwo as well as its carrier airplane, WhiteKnightTwo, to monitor the rocket engine's performance. The test was aimed at setting the stage for honest-to-goodness flights into outer space later this year, and eventual commercial space tours.

    More about SpaceShipTwo on PhotoBlog (Virgin Galactic) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Red lagoon

    The VLT Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in Chile captured this richly detailed new image of the Lagoon Nebula, released on Jan. 22. This giant cloud of gas and dust is creating intensely bright young stars, and is home to young stellar clusters. This image is a tiny part of just one of 11 public surveys of the sky now in progress using ESO telescopes. (ESO/VPHAS team) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Fire on the mountain

    This image provided by NASA shows a satellite view of smoke from the Colby Fire, taken by the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft as it passed over Southern California on Jan. 16. The fire burned more than 1,863 acres and forced the evacuation of 3,700 people. (NASA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Where stars are born

    An image captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Orion Nebula, an immense stellar nursery some 1,500 light-years away. This false-color infrared view, released on Jan. 15, spans about 40 light-years across the region. The brightest portion of the nebula is centered on Orion's young, massive, hot stars, known as the Trapezium Cluster. But Spitzer also can detect stars still in the process of formation, seen here in red hues. (NASA / JPL-Caltech) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Cygnus takes flight

    Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket rises from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va, on Jan. 9. The rocket sent Orbital's Cygnus cargo capsule on its first official resupply mission to the International Space Station. (Chris Perry / NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A long, long time ago...

    This long-exposure picture from the Hubble Space Telescope, released Jan. 8, is the deepest image ever made of any cluster of galaxies. The cluster known as Abell 2744 appears in the foreground. It contains several hundred galaxies as they looked 3.5 billion years ago. Abell 2744 acts as a gravitational lens to warp space, brightening and magnifying images of nearly 3,000 distant background galaxies. The more distant galaxies appear as they did more than 12 billion years ago, not long after the Big Bang. (NASA / NASA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Frosty halo

    Sun dogs are bright spots that appear in the sky around the sun when light is refracted through ice crystals in the atmosphere. These sun dogs appeared on Jan. 5 amid brutally cold temperatures along Highway 83, north of Bismarck, N.D. The temperature was about 22 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, with a 50-below-zero wind chill.

    Slideshow: The Year in Space (Brian Peterson / The Bismarck Tribune via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

Video: Meteor shower lights up the sky


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments