Watching the Skies: Perseid meteor showers

Weather

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Every year in August you can count on a brilliant astronomical event to light up the night sky. The peak of the Perseid meteor showers will arrive this week.

The Perseid meteor showers last for a few weeks but the peak will come early in the morning on Aug. 12. The mornings of Aug. 11 through Aug. 13 will be a great time to head outside and try to spot some meteors.

You can look in the evening for the Perseids, but you’ll likely see more during the early hours. Up to 40 meteors per hour will be possible before sunrise.

The waning crescent moon will provide enough light to pollute the view somewhat but the Perseids have been known to produce some very vibrant meteors.

The Perseid meteor shower happens at the same time each year as the Earth moves through the orbital path of the Comet Swift-Tuttle. The meteors that we see from Earth are dust and debris from the comet burning up in our atmosphere.

The radiant point of the Perseids or the point at which the meteors seem to originate is in the constellation Perseus. This is how the meteor shower got its name. You don’t need to know where the radiant point is to spot the meteors — you can look at any point in the night sky and have a chance of spotting them.

If you don’t have any luck spotting the meteors, make sure to keep your eyes open for the moon and Venus together later this week. On the mornings of Aug. 14 through Aug. 16, you should be able to spot the pair easily.

The moon will be above and to the right of Venus on Aug. 14, right next to Venus on Aug. 15 and below and to the left of Venus on Aug. 16. Look to the east before dawn to see the pair.

The moon is the second brightest celestial object in the night sky and Venus is the third, so they will be easy to find.

Real Time Perseid from September 8, 2018. Bright meteors and dark night skies made this year’s Perseid meteor shower a great time for a weekend campout. And while packing away their equipment, skygazers at a campsite in the mountains of southern Germany found at least one more reason to linger under the stars, witnessing this brief but colorful flash with their own eyes. Presented as a 50 frame gif, the two second long video was captured during the morning twilight of August 12. In real time it shows the development of the typical green train of a bright Perseid meteor. A much fainter Perseid is just visible farther to the right. Plowing through Earth’s atmosphere at 60 kilometers per second, Perseids are fast enough to excite the characteristic green emission of atomic oxygen at altitudes of 100 kilometers or so. Credit: Till Credner, AlltheSky.com

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