Perseid Meteor Shower

The prolific Perseids Meteor Shower peaks on the night of August 12-13. Unfortunately, the Moon will be extremely full and bright during the peak this year, so the dimmer meteors will be hidden by the moon-lit sky. Thankfully, Perseids are often very long and bright!

The source of the Perseids material is thought to be 133-year-period Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. The active period for this shower is July 13 through August 26, so keep an eye out for them beyond this week. This shower is known for producing 60-80 meteors per hour at the peak - many manifesting as bright, sputtering fireballs!

While visible anywhere in the night sky, meteors will appear to radiate from a location in the sky (called the radiant) between the constellations of Camelopardalis (the Giraffe) and Perseus (the Hero), which gives this shower its name. The radiant is low in the northeastern sky during mid-August evenings – and nearly overhead by dawn. Meteor showers are best observed in the dark skies before dawn. When the radiant constellation is overhead, the entire sky down to the horizon is available for meteors.

The highest Perseid meteor rates this year are expected to occur on from Monday night into Tuesday morning August 12-13, when the Earth will be closest to the orbit of comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle and densest part of its debris trail. Several nights on either side of the peak will be almost as good. If you begin to watch after dark on Monday evening, you might catch very long meteors that are skimming the Earth’s upper atmosphere. These are fewer, but spectacular. As the night rolls on, the radiant of the meteors will rise higher in the sky, revealing more meteors because they are no longer hidden by the bulk of Earth. The absolute best time to view is around 4 am local time when the radiant will be almost overhead.

For best results, try to find a safe viewing location with as much open sky as possible. If you can hide the Moon behind a building or tree, that will help. You can start watching as soon as it is dark. And remember that binoculars and telescopes will not help you see meteors because they have fields of view that are too narrow. Use Star Walk 2 to find the radiant in the sky and enjoy the bright Perseids with the naked eye!

Clear skies and happy stargazing!

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Image Credit:Vito Technology

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