Who doesn’t enjoy a brilliant flash traversing the nighttime sky? I’m not talking about lightning, rather, the annual celestial show called the Perseid meteor shower.
It peaks this weekend with the absolute best time to capture as many as possible will be Sunday night, early Monday morning. It’s quite possible, after you allow your eyes to adjust, you could view as many as 60 to 70 per hour or as many as one per minute. They also tend to be brighter than average.
It’s usually not advantageous to run into a debris field but in this circumstance, it certainly is.
Each year around mid-August earth orbits through the debris field left behind by the comet Swift-Tuttle. The debris, or tiny meteors, enter the atmosphere approximately 50 to 75 miles above the earth at an amazing speed of 20 to 45 miles per second (up to 25,000 to 160,000 mph).
The meteors can be as small as a grain of sand but most are the size and shape of a Grape-nut.
Travel away from the city lights, allow your eyes to adjust, and look to the northeast quadrant of the sky. This is the direction where the meteors seem to emanate and is also where the constellation Perseus is located, hence the name Perseids.
An extra bonus this year is that the peak will coincide will the new moon phase, which means moonshine will not add light to the sky, ultimately dulling the meteors.
The forecast looks ideal as well. Any isolated showers and storms that develop Saturday and Sunday afternoon will dissipate once the sun sets, leading to partly to mostly clear skies for favorable viewing.
Temperatures won’t be too cool, bottoming out in the low to mid 60s with a calm wind. You may want a light jacket or blanket.
If you miss the meteors this weekend you can still catch them through Aug. 24, but they won’t be as stellar (pun intended).
Although any given night you can catch a few stray meteors, then next significant meteor shower is a ways away and the viewing will certainly be much colder.
The Gemini meteor shower peaks this year Dec. 14.