It was early August, which means the annual Perseid meteor shower is active and it is about to peak. Perseids are among the finest, brightest, and it feels like we could use them now more than ever to add a bit of surprise and distraction to these rather bleak times.
This famous showers appear around this time each year when Earth passes through a cloud of debris left behind by the giant comet 109P / Swift-Tuttle. Dust, pebbles and other cosmic debris hit our atmosphere, burning into short streaks of light and sometimes even fireball streaks in the night sky.
By 2020, Perseids is expected to reach its peak on August 11 and 12, when the moon is less than half.
The popularity of the shower is a combination of the fact that it is one of the strongest places, with an average of up to 100 meteors visible per hour and coincides with the warm summer nights in the northern hemisphere. The weakened moon is capable of washing away many other visible meteors, but that still leaves a lot to be seen if you make a small plan.
Watching the Perseid meteor shower create a celestial landscape around the world
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In general, a good strategy is to go out to find Perseids in the evening as late as possible, but still before the moon rises at your location. So in New York, for example, you want to stay as far away from all that light pollution as possible at around 11:00 p.m. on Tuesday night (peak night) because the moon will rise about an hour later. 12:08 am. on Wednesday. (You can search for sunsets and moonsets for your location with a website like TimeandDate.com.)
You can also try to stop the moon by placing yourself next to a building, tree or something else that holds some of that moonlight out of your retina.
The Moon will begin to completely disappear after mid-month and even though the Perseids have passed their heyday, they are still active and visible. This shower is at the top half of the peak with a completely dark sky which could equate to the total peak with the bright moon, so don’t think you right Go out on rush night to catch it
Once you’ve decided on the perfect time and a place with minimal light interference and a wide view of the sky, just lie on your back, letting your eyes adjust and relax. Pillows, blankets, lounge chairs and refreshments make for the ideal experience. It may take about 20 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the darkness, so be sure to be patient. If you follow all my advice you will definitely see a meteorite.
It doesn’t really matter where in the sky you look, as long as you have a wide view. That said, the Perseids will appear radiating from the constellation Perseus, the Hero. If you want to train to be an advanced meteor detector, locate Perseus and try to focus there while you watch. Then try to just look up without focusing anywhere. See if you notice a difference. We’re still dealing with the unpredictability of nature, so the results will be different.
Arguably the best part of Perseids every year is the beautiful photos we get from talented astrophotographers who spend long nights outside.
As always, if you take any beautiful selfies, please share them with me on Twitter or Instagram @EricCMack.