Perseid Meteor Shower 2014: Google Doodle honours one of the great celestial light shows

The annual Perseid meteor shower is known as the 'fireball champion' of meteor showers

Google has marked the arrival of one of the great celestial displays, the Perseid Meteor Shower, with an animated Doodle on its homepage.

The Doodle when clicked shows a short film of meteors dashing through the night sky against a variety of backdrops.

The annual Perseid meteor shower - known as the "fireball champion" of meteor showers -  happens every August and is caused by the massive Swift-Tuttle comet losing parts of its celestial body as it enters the inner solar system.

The Perseid shower is so-called because they appear to come from the radiant which lies in the constellation Perseus.

While the meteor shower has not yet peaked, the brightness of Sunday night’s supermoon almost eclipsed the spectacle usually created by the shower.

 

Dr Bill Cooke from Nasa’s meteoroid environment office said the “lunar glare wipes out the black, velvety backdrop required to see faint meteors,” which also sharply reduces counts.

The moon appeared 14% bigger and 30% brighter than normal as it reached the point in its orbit closest to the Earth, known as "perigee", and risked drowning out the meteor shower.

An unusually bright full "supermoon" was also seen on July 12, and is due to appear again on September 9.

Supermoons occur relatively frequently, usually every 13 months and 18 days, but are not always noticed because of clouds or poor weather.

Observation of the Perseid Meteor Shower is ancient, with the earliest information on this meteor shower found in Chinese annals in A.D. 36.

The meteor shower is often referred to, particularly by Catholics as the "tears of St. Lawrence", as 10 August is the date of that saint's martyrdom.

Given a dark, clear sky it is often common to see more than 100 of the meteors an hour during the second week in August.

Every 133 years, comet Swift-Tuttle swings through the inner Solar System leaving behind a trail of dust.

When the Earth passes through, the dust cloud particles hit the atmosphere at 140,000 mph and burn up in streaking flashes of light, creating the spectacle known as the Perseids.

The meteors will be visible until Wednesday, with activity peaking tonight.

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