The annual Perseid meteor shower, which peaks this week, is dazzling sky-watchers around the world.
Here, a bright fireball is caught lighting up the starry skies above Teutonia Peak in the Mojave National Preserve in California on August 10, more than a day before the official maximum activity peak for the Perseid meteors. (Read more on enjoying the Perseid meteor shower.)
Considered the most visually stunning meteor shower of 2013, the Perseids peak every August, when the Earth slams into a giant cloud of debris left behind by comet Swift-Tuttle along its orbit.
While most meteors zipping across the skies are no bigger than a grain of sand, fireballs like the one pictured above can be anywhere from the size of a grapefruit to the size of a basketball. The resulting high-speed impact causes unusually bright meteors, which astronomers call bolides, which can cast shadows and even a lingering smoke trail.
Like a starburst, multiple Perseid meteors appear to radiate outward in this composite image snapped during the height of activity on August 11 above Waterford, Ontario, Canada.
"This image is the result of four and a half hours of continuous shooting," said photographer Darryl Van Gaal. "It was a cold night and I'm glad I took a lawn chair and sleeping bag to keep myself warm."
Perseids, like all other showers, gets its name from the constellation the meteor streaks appear to radiate out from—in this case Perseus.
With the ghostly glow of the Milky Way in the background, a bright Perseid fireball appears to fall toward Japan's Mount Fuji in this stunning shot taken on August 11.
"The meteor gradually changed the color from green, yellow, to pink, and my D600 [camera]¸captured it well," explained photographer Yuga Kurita.
Bright meteors known as fireballs produce vivid colors based on the chemical elements they contain. As the space rock gets vaporized traveling through the Earth's atmosphere at high speeds, sodium can produce flashes of bright yellow, while nickel and magnesium appear as green and blue-white respectively.
Photograph by Yuga Kurita, National Geographic Your Shot
View From Hungary
A single Perseid meteor pierces the evening twilight skies above the Salgotarjan landscape in Hungary in this August 11 portrait.