It’s time for the best meteor shower of the year, the Perseids. And this year could be better than most years.
Each year Earth plows through a stream of debris from 109P/Swift-Tuttle, a comet that orbits the sun once every 133 years. As the debris enters our atmosphere, it burns up creating beautiful meteors, or “shooting stars.”
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The Perseid shower runs from July 13 to August 26, but peaks on the night of August 11-12.
This shower is considered the best for a couple of reasons: first, it occurs during summer, which makes it a lot more comfortable to sit outside to watch. Second, it produces more meteors per hour than other showers.
But this year could be even better than usual: rather than the typical 100 meteors per hour, we could see an outburst of 150 or more at the peak, something that hasn’t been seen since 2009.
As well, the pesky moon (whose light can drown out faint meteors) will be setting around 1 a.m. and only half-full. Though the moon will be up for those trying to catch the shower earlier in the night, it will be in the west.
The Perseids are named for the constellation from which they appear to originate, in this case Perseus, which rises around 8 p.m. in the east.
If you want to catch a few meteors, the best thing to do is to get to as dark of a location as you can. You should try to also go out as late as possible, when the constellation Perseus is higher in the sky and thus darker (as it is away from the horizon and light sources.) That way you can see even faint meteors.
And don’t use your cellphone! That bright light can make it more difficult for your eyes to adapt to the darkness and hinder your ability to see faint meteors.
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But the most important things are to be patient and just keep looking up. Many times people turn to talk to each other and are dismayed to find that they’ve missed a meteor streaking across the sky.
And, although the shower is expected to peak on the night of Aug. 11-12, go out multiple nights. You’re likely to see a few meteors at some point.
Also, don’t forget to bring a blanket to lie down on and maybe another one to keep you warm as the night can get chilly.