Get ready for an all-natural light show in Tuesday’s sky — the Perseid meteor shower.
It’s one of the northern hemisphere’s most popular meteor showers each year. The shower has been active since July but is set to peak this Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, August 11-12.
If you can’t get out to have a look then, you may still be able to catch a glimpse of Perseid meteors the following two nights.
Perseid meteors are caused by dust and debris left behind from the tail of the comet Swift-Tuttle. Every August, the Earth passes through debris left behind by the comet.
Expert sky-watcher Tony Rice shares these details about the Perseids with WANE 15:
- Where to look: the darkest part of your sky. Perseids can be seen anywhere and appear to be coming from the direction of the the constellation Perseus, beneath the w-shaped Cassiopeia. Also look low in the northern sky in the evening hours for a few that may skim the upper atmosphere, there probably wont be many, but they tend to produce long, long-lasting trails.
- Where not to look: directly toward the radiant in Perseus. The trails will be shortest here and you’ll likely see fewer.
- When to look: 11pm (when the radiant is high enough in the sky to provide some room for some meteors) until moonrise (~12:30 am). Usually the advice is to look in the hours before sunrise, but the 3rd quarter moon rising around midnight will began to spoil the show.
- What to expect: 9-10 per hour from a reasonably dark location. The 100 number you may have heard is the Zenith Hourly Rate (ZHR) which is a handicapping system based on ideal (a.k.a. non-existent) conditions used to compare meteor reports from around the world.
The best way to view the meteor shower is by sitting in a reclining lawn chair or lying on your back and looking up at the sky with a wide view. It helps to be as far from artificial light as possible, according to CNN.