|Scene capture of Perseid meteor shower NASA.gov|
They're back. Time for the Perseids, the most reliable meteor shower of the year. The shower reaches its peak Wednesday and Thursday August 12 and 13. The best news is the waxing moon. It will not interfere significantly with viewing. There's more good news: Earth passes through some significant debris trails this year and sky watchers could see as many as 100 to 200 meteors per hour between 10:00 PM and 5:00 AM each night. You don't have to wait until mid-week to see some potentially amazing meteors. New research has concluded that the Perseid event produces more fireballs - meteors brighter than the planets, Jupiter and Venus - than any other shower. And since fireballs are random meteors, you don't have to watch the skies after midnight to see them. Anytime after sunset works. One of the most spectacular fireballs I ever saw cut across at least 120 degrees of steel blue sky about half an hour after sunset.
Here's how to enjoy the Perseids. If the night is clear, find a dark location, take a lounge chair or blanket and bug spray outside between midnight and dawn and look into the northeast sky. In that sky, you'll see a lopsided "W" known as the constellation Cassiopeia, an easy marker for its neighbor, Perseus. The shower radiates from this point as it rotates across the sky, but it's important to note that meteors may occur anywhere in the sky dome. Furthermore, you will likely see some random meteors that will not fit the pattern.
Don't bother with a telescope, but you may enjoy binoculars for exploring deeper into space when the meteor watch gets a tad boring. Also, if your weather doesn't cooperate at the shower's maximum, keep in mind that it will be gradually declining through the evening of August 18 so you still have a good chance of seeing a piece of the show.
For the latest news about this year's shower visit spaceweather.com.
wikipedia.com, Perseus Holding the Head of Medusa, ca. 1800, Antonio Canova. Vatican City, Museo Pio-Clementino, Octagon Hall, Canova Cabinet