Nights of the Perseid meteors

Nights of the Perseid meteors

An annual event, the Perseid meteors put on a sky show in late July and early August, as the Earth passes through the debris field of the comet Swift-Tuttle. The peak of the shower is expected to be the nights of August 11-12.

This year, the moon is a  quarter moon, which is a lovely sight, and the moonlight won’t interfere with meteor watching.

Where is the best place to watch meteors?  You want to find a dark place, away from city lights,  for the best view.  The darker the sky, the better.

What is the best  way to watch meteors?    Get comfortable and keep your eyes on the sky–Bring along a blanket, or  a  folding chair. Just  lie back and take your time to let your eyes become accustomed to the darkness.  Be prepared to make a night of it.  The best viewing time is before dawn.

What should you  bring?   Snacks, drinks, a hoodie if its a cool night. Don’t forget mosquito repellant!  Binoculars  are fine for skywatching, but aren’t necessary for spotting meteors.

What should you look for?  The meteors appear to radiate from the constellation Perseus, which is where they get their name.  Look toward the Northeast.  You will see streaks of light that are the “shooting stars.”

Why might this year’s Perseids be an epic show?   This year the Earth is moving through a very dense trail of dust and debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle, meaning the frequency of the light show could be even more intense.

How many meteors could you see?   Under good conditions, 60 meteors an hour have been reported.  This year, the peak is projected to be as many as 200 meteors an hour!

What if the weather is not good for sky watching?   In case of clouds or rain, which is forecast for Chicago area, keep in mind that there are other nights, and there will be more Perseid meteors after the peak on August 11-12.  It may not be as spectacular, but even one meteor streaking across the sky is an amazing  sight.

You can also watch online at Virtual Astro,  Space.com  or Earth Sky.  Adler Planetarium also  has contingency plans in case of rain.

 

 

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Filed under: seasons, weather

Tags: Perseid meteors

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  • Thanks. At last, a reason to want insomnia!

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    Thank you for reading! Yes, and another excuse to go camping...

  • Great tips! Thanks!

  • In reply to Kathy Mathews:

    thanks for reading!

  • This is what Chet Raymo says in his wonderful book "365 Starry Nights" about today August 12:

    "August is the month of 'shooting stars.' You are more likely to see a meteor this starry night than at any other time of the year. Actually, the entire second half of the year is better for meteor watching than the first half. But this is the week that the Perseid shower peaks and the 'children of Perseus' are the most reliable of all meteor showers."

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Yes! Thanks so much, AW.

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