Perseid meteor shower peaks this week

Weather

The annual Perseid meteor shower is set to peak August 11th, 12th and 13th this year. This is one of the most popular of the annual meteor showers as it typically produces fast and bright meteors at a consistently high rate… and the warm overnight lows make it comfortable for stargazers to stay up late to watch. The shower will be visible in Central Texas and all across the Northern Hemisphere.

The slight snag in this year’s Perseids viewing will be the moon, expected to reach it’s next phase, the last quarter (50% full), on August 11th. The bright moon may fade out some of the dimmer meteors… but is not expected to completely block out the visibility of all meteors.

This year’s forecast

The forecast here in Central Texas calls for mostly to partly clear skies and dry conditions throughout the week. No need to worry about rain gear – but clouds may block the view in the early morning hours before dawn. So better to start viewing early before cloud cover rolls in.

How to watch the meteor shower

Here are some tips to give yourself the best viewing opportunity of the Perseid meteor shower:

  1. Find a dark, open sky – as far away from light pollution as possible
  2. Give your eyes at least 20 minutes to adjust to the darkness
  3. Position yourself on one side of a large structure or object (building, tree) with the moon on the opposite side – this will help block the moon’s light
  4. Try to watch after midnight but before moonrise (12:40AM – 1:40AM on August 11, 12, 13)
  5. Bring a comfy chair or blanket to recline on – no special equipment needed for viewing
  6. Generally look towards the north sky

What’s in a name / why does it occur

When tracing the paths of the Perseid meteors backwards, a center point becomes apparent (known as the “radiant”). This point is just in front of the constellation Perseus. This is where the Perseid meteor shower name originates from.

COURTESY: EarthSky.org

As to why it happens? Every year, our planet crosses the path of the comet Swift-Tuttle. As we pass through the debris of the comet, pieces of rock and dust slam into the Earth’s upper atmosphere at some ~130,000 mph, lighting up the sky with Persied meteors. Even a small speck of dust can create a streak of light. It is said that temperatures can reach anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit as the meteors soar across the sky.

COURTESY: American Meteor Society

Date/time of the next meteor shower

Mark your calendars for the Orionid Meteor Shower expected to grace the night sky October 2nd through November 7th. The moon will be far less bright at this date (~23% full) allowing for better viewing opportunities. This shower occurs when Earth passes through the debris of the widely-famous Halley’s comet.

For more information, visit the AMS website here.

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