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Meteor shower will light up sky

Las Cruces residents can expect to see an array of shooting stars late Saturday night, Aug. 11, and early Sunday morning, Aug. 12, said Kurt Anderson, professor of astronomy at New Mexico State University.

The Perseid Meteor Shower is expected to peak during the night and will present many bright meteors, some leaving persistent glowing trails and even the occasional "fireball" streaking across the sky. Predictions of the amount of meteors range from 10 to 100 per hour, and during the peak of the display, the shower usually produces about a meteor a minute.

The shower will begin about 10 p.m. Saturday, as the constellation of Perseus begins to rise above the northeastern horizon. The best time to observe the meteors will be at midnight and early Sunday morning, although the shower should still be fairly active late Sunday night and Monday morning, Aug. 13, as well.

The Perseid Meteor Shower is so named because the meteors appear to radiate from a point in the constellation of Perseus.

The shower is caused by small particles of debris, meteoroids, which occupy the orbit of Comet Swift-Tuttle, which only returns to the inner solar system every 130 years, but the Earth runs into its debris trail every August.

Meteors are produced as some of these particles enter the Earth's atmosphere at about 60 kilometers per second and are heated by the friction of the upper atmosphere, creating streaks of light.

For more information on the Perseid Meteor Shower, call the NMSU Astronomy Department at (505) 646-1032.