Don't Miss this Year's Stellar Outburst of Shooting Stars - The Perseid Meteor Shower

Photo Credit: Brocken Inaglory 

Photo Credit: Brocken Inaglory 

Attention skywatchers! August 2016 promises to have one of the best Perseid Meteor showers in years! According to NASA, viewers will have the opportunity to see even more meteors at any given time, as they will be appearing at double the rate they usually do. NASA's meteor expert Bill Cooke says, "This year, instead of seeing about 80 Perseids per hour, the rate could top 150 and even approach 200 meteors per hour."

This year, between July 17 and August 24, the Earth passes through the path of the comet Swift-Tuttle. On the evening of August 11 to 12, the earth will enter into the densest, dustiest part of the path, and at that time, viewers will be able to see the most meteors in the shortest amount of time. According to NASA, the moon will interfere a bit with the Perseids, but once it sets at 1 a.m. people will be able to get a clear view of the meteors. Don't worry if you can't watch the Perseid shower on August 11 - 12, because experts recommend that it's worth watching on the days leading up to the peak, as well as after it. Since moonlight can interfere with viewing, it is worth watching the skies now, in early August, when the moon is new.

The best place to see the meteor shower is in the northern hemisphere or in the mid-southern latitudes. Also, if you can get to a place where there is less light pollution, that will also improve your chances of getting a good view of the stars. You might even consider camping overnight to catch the show!

Here are some star-gazing tips from Earth-Sky.org to have the best experience watching the Perseid Meteor show:

  • Find a dark, open sky to enjoy the show.
    • An open sky is essential because these meteors fly across the sky in many different directions and in front of numerous constellations.
  • Give yourself at least an hour of observing time, for these meteors come in spurts and are interspersed with lulls.
    • Remember, your eyes can take as long as 20 minutes to adapt to the darkness of night. So don’t rush the process.
  • Know that the meteors all come from a single point in the sky.
    • If you trace the paths of the Perseid meteors backwards, you’d find they all come from a point in front of the constellation Perseus. Don’t worry about which stars are Perseus. Just enjoying knowing and observing that they all come from one place on the sky’s dome.
  • Enjoy the comfort of a reclining lawn chair.
    • Bring along some other things you might enjoy also, like a thermos filled with a hot drink.
  • Remember … all good things come to those who wait.
    • Meteors are part of nature. There’s no way to predict exactly how many you’ll see on any given night. Find a good spot, watch, wait.

Written by Rajmani Sinclair, August 2, 2016