The Perseids is a prolific meteor shower associated with a comet called Swift-Tuttle.
The last passage of this comet was in 1992, the next one will be in 2126.
The Perseids are named after the point they appear to come from, which lies in the constellation Perseus. But the name derives also from a word belonging to the Greek Mythology: Perseides, son of Perseus.
The stream of debris, known as the ‘Perseid cloud’, are particles ejected by the comet Swift-Tuttle as it travels on its 130-year orbit. Most of the dust in the cloud today is around a thousand years old, but there is also a relatively young filament of dust in the stream that was pulled off the comet in 1862 and that originates a higher number of meteors than the older part of the stream.
The Perseid Meteror shower has been observed for about 2000 years, with the earliest information on this meteor shower coming from the Far East (
, 36 AD). Some Catholics refer to the Perseids as the "tears of St Lawrence", since 10 August is the date of that saint's martyrdom. China
Each year the shower is visible in the northern hemisphere from about the middle of July, with the peak in activity in the middle of August, the exact date depends on the particular location of the stream. During the peak, the rate of meteors reaches 60 or more per hour.
The loss, on 12th August 1993, of the nearly new communications satellite Olympus, was due to an impact during the ’93 August Perseid Meteor shower. That satellite, built by the British Aerospace for the European Space Agency, was the largest civilian telecomms satellite ever built.