The Perseid meteor shower is often the best of the year, but you need to know where and when to look for them. This meteor shower is caused when the Earth goes through debris left from a comet known as 109/Swift-Tuttle. This comet takes 133 years to orbit the sun and is currently in the outer area of our solar system. But it has left many trips worth of debris (comet dust) behind, and this is what we see falling through the atmosphere as meteors. The Earth has actually been passing through this trail since July 17, and will continue to travel through until August 24. August 11 – 13 is when it passes through the thickest part of the dusty trail.
Last year, the Perseid meteors were harder to see due to a very bright moon, but this year there is a new moon on August 11. That means there will not be much moon light on the 12th and 13th, when the showers will be peaking in activity. The peak time for watching is said to be between 2:00 and 4:00 am Monday morning – as this is when the activity will be highest in the sky and meteors will be easier to see. It is also better if you can get to a more rural area away from the lights of the city.
Bill Cooke – NASA meteor expert – says this Perseid shower should have about 60 to 70 meteors per hour at the peak this year. The meteors travel through our atmosphere at 37 miles per second. Almost all of them will burn completely away as they do so. The Perseids are known for fireballs, which are meteors that glow particularly brightly as compared to most.
If you now your constellations, you will notice these meteors seeming to originate from the constellation Perseus. If you don’t know where that is, no big deal. You will be able to see the meteors no matter which direction you are looking in the early morning sky. Even if you cannot get out to see the Perseid showers at their peak, you will still get a decent show of meteors in the few days before and after that date.
Get outside this weekend to see one of nature’s fireworks shows. Also take the time to look for Mars, Saturn or any of the other 4 planets visible right now from our state. The show is free, and you just have to relax and watch.