Perseids Quiz: Are You a Meteor Shower Mastermind?

Nancy Gupton
for National Geographic News
August 12, 2009

Boggle your noggin with five far-out Perseid meteor shower puzzlers. Answers at bottom.

1. What are the Perseids?

a. Fast-moving stars
b. Comet debris hitting Earth's atmosphere
c. Space junk burning up in the atmosphere
d. None of the above

2. Which constellation is the source of the Perseids?

a. Perseus
b. Andromeda
c. Pegasus
d. Cygnus

3. Which comet causes the Perseids?

a. Comet Oterma
b. Comet Swift-Tuttle
c. Comet Westphal
d. Comet Pons-Brooks

4. What are the most spectacular Perseid meteors called?

a. Starshowers
b. Skywonders
c. Earthgrazers
d. Fireballs

5. Until fairly recently, astronomers believed what about the Perseids' parent comet, Swift-Tuttle?

a. It would die off by 2010
b. It would split into two comets by 2030
c. It would collide with Halley's comet
d. It could smash into Earth in 2126

More on the Perseids
Perseids: What They Are, How to Watch the Meteors, More
PERSEIDS PICTURES: Meteor Shower Streaks Across the Sky


1. b

The Perseids are caused by debris from a comet entering Earth's atmosphere at speeds of around 37 miles a second (60 kilometers a second).

2. a

The Perseid radiant—the point in the sky from which the shooting stars appear to originate—is in the constellation Perseus.

3. b

The Perseids appear yearly when the Earth enters a stream of dusty debris shed by the periodic comet Swift-Tuttle.

4. c

A rare but unforgettable sight, Earthgrazers are long and slow meteors that streak across the sky horizontally, like stones skipping across the surface of a pond.

5. d

Until the early 1990s, astronomers believed that Swift-Tuttle (which is nearly as large as the asteroid believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs) might strike the Earth in 2126. New calculations showed that there is no danger of such an event then.



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