Perseid Meteor Shower: When and How to See the Peak

Skywatchers are setting up for the Perseid meteor shower, which this year peaks in the early morning hours on Friday and Saturday. National Aeronautics and Space Administration astronomers call the Perseids the best of the 30 or so. Annual meteor shower.

Perseids are classified Lots of fireballsExceptionally bright meteors leave streaks of light in the night sky as they burn up in the atmosphere. Under ideal viewing conditions, people can see 50 to 100 bright and colorful meteors per hour during the Perseids’ peak.

Two to three hours before sunrise is the best time to see the Perseids, says Bill Cook, lead astronomer for NASA’s Meteor Environment Office at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. But this year, he added. The light of the full moon A faint meteor washes out the lines.

“A year without a full moon will reduce meteorite rates by a third or a quarter,” Dr Cook said. But even with the moonlight, the Perseids “will be better than any meteor shower we’ve had so far this year,” he added.

This month’s full moon is called a supermoon, meaning the full moon coincides with the closest approach of our natural satellite to Earth in its elliptical orbit around our planet, according to NASA. Super MoonsThis can happen several times a year. Appears slightly larger and brighter than other full moons.

Moonlight isn’t the only thing that can come between skywatchers and a dazzling sky show. Clouds, like light pollution, can pose a problem.

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“Light pollution acts like moonlight,” says Dr. Cook refers to artificial light from streetlights, buildings, and other sources in populated areas.

“A century ago we had a lot of dark skies,” he said, adding that skywatchers today see fewer meteors than their ancestors.

Perseids are seen worldwide every summer, but are best seen in the Northern Hemisphere. The shower is named after the constellation Perseus, which is the region of the sky where the meteors originated.

A meteor streaks across the sky during the 2021 Perseid meteor shower at Spruce Knob, W.Va.


Photo:

Bill Ingalls/Associated Press

Although they are sometimes called shooting stars, meteors actually exist Fast moving snow, dust and rock Our planet’s path around the Sun takes us through the path of debris from a comet or asteroid that hits Earth’s atmosphere. In the case of the Perseids, Earth is moving through the debris left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle, a large comet. Invented in 1862.

Debris from the comet—ranging in size from a grain of sand to a pea—hit the atmosphere at that speed. NASA is going at 37 miles per second, or about 133,000 miles per hour. Heat generated by intense friction between debris and molecules in the atmosphere causes the bits to burn.

The Perseids peak occurs when Earth moves through the densest part of the Swift-Tuttle debris trail.

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How do you plan to see the annual Perseid meteor shower? Join the conversation below.

To improve your view of the Perseids, find a dark spot away from city lights that provides an unobstructed view of the sky during predawn hours. But meteors can be seen anytime between midnight and dawn, says Ashley King, a research fellow at the Natural History Museum in London and an expert on meteors.

No binoculars or binoculars are required, as these instruments can simultaneously view the extent of the night sky. If the moon is still visible, look in the other direction – be sure to give your eyes time to adjust to the darkness.

“It may take 10 to 15 minutes to see your first image,” Dr. King said.

Write to Aylin Woodward at aylin.woodward@wsj.com

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