Millions of meteors occur in Earth’s atmosphere daily. When Earth passes through a stream of space debris left by a comet, a series of meteors appearing in the sky seconds or minutes apart in varying speed, frequency and brightness and all appearing to originate from the same fixed ‘radiant’ point is called a ‘meteor shower’. Named meteor showers reoccur about the same time each year.
The Perseids with scores of fast, bright meteors and large explosions of light and color called ‘fire balls’ is often the most impressive meteor shower each year for the Northern Hemisphere, and the 2018 Perseids meteor shower (July 17 – August 24) is no exception.
The best Perseids viewing time is usually just before the break of dawn when the constellation Perseus is high in the sky (2am – 4am local time).
Peak viewing of 2018 Perseids is coming up on the Moonless night of August 12 (4pm) until 4am on August 13 (local time). Because the new Moon falls near the peak night, the days before and after the peak will also provide dark skies for optimal viewing a few hours after twilight until dawn.
Find a dark place where you can lie back on a blanket, sleeping bag, cot or chaise lounge away from city lights, and look straight up at the night sky. Give your eyes at least 30 minutes to adjust to the darkness. Don’t look directly at the constellation Perseus (where Perseids radiant is located) as you will see fewer meteors from that angle. No binoculars or telescope needed. In fact, it’s better to watch meteors with the naked eye because a wider field of view lets you see more of the sky. Expect to see about one meteor per minute, visible as faint streaks of light or a bright fireball. Enjoy the experience with friends!
Confused about whether or not the Perseids can be seen from your location? Take a look at this world map provided by Marshall Space Flight Center (NASA – Watch the Skies, August 13, 2010). The Perseids is visible to everyone, except at locations within the red shaded area.
List of Named Meteor Showers – Wikipedia
Perseids – NASA Science: Solar System Exploration
Feature photo is courtesy of Austin Schmid/Unsplash CC0
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