Catch the Perseid Meteor Shower at Its Peak
  • Plan for optimal conditions for this year’s Perseid meteor shower early in the mornings of August 12th and 13th. “Stars fell like weaving in the south, unceasingly through the night.” So a city gazetteer printed in Shanxi, China, described the sky above Fenyang on August 10, 1862.
  • Calculating backward, scholars have determined that the “Weaving stars” witnessed by the townspeople were in fact Perseid meteors, falling at a time when the shower’s radiant, the point from which the meteors appear to emanate, lay low in the sky.
  • When Earth crosses Swift-Tuttle’s orbit, bits of dust and rocks left behind by the comet hit the planet’s atmosphere, creating the light show we know as the Perseid meteor shower.
  • The shower’s predicted peak falls on the evening of August 12th, soon after new Moon.
  • Perseids begin streaking across the sky in mid-July, when the radiant is still in Cassiopeia, and the odd shower meteor will continue to be visible until around August 24th. The easiest way to view a meteor shower is to kick back with a lawn chair and a sleeping bag.
  • For most viewers in the Northern Hemisphere, shower meteors can appear any time after evening twilight ends, since the radiant in Perseus is circumpolar.
  • The most suitable equipment for watching a meteor shower are desire and dark skies, but if you’d like to document your observations more formally, the International Meteor Organization recommends that visual observers track sky activity for at least 1 hour, with reports broken into short intervals of no longer than 15 minutes.

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