It has happened to most of us: walking home late at night under clear skies you catch a glimpse of something bright moving, often from the corner of your eye. You turn to see what it is but it’s gone without a trace. And chances are you will have seen a meteor ending its multi-billion year journey in a burst of light 100km up.
Even after nearly 20 years as an astronomer, I still believe the Perseid meteor shower in mid-August is one of the most spectacular astronomical events I have seen. If you are at all impressed by the majestic nature of the universe, you will not want to miss these Perseids, which usually peak around August 12. Beyond their aesthetic display, their very existence gives us a real connection to the solar system, its past formation, and thereby to the star and planet formation history of our entire galaxy.