OK, Skywatchers, it’s that time of year when the earth travels through the debris field of the Comet Swift-Tuttle from July 17 to Aug. 24, producing what is known as the Perseid Meteor Shower. The shower’s peak this year will be August 11-12. and is supposed to be even better than most. But don’t wait for the peak nights to start watching. Go anytime in the next few days when weather conditions are optimal for a clear sky.
Because of the nearness of the planet Jupiter, its gravity field is expected to pull that stream of debris a little closer than usual this year, which allows Earth to travel more through the middle it; more debris produces more meteors. It is possible that there could be around 200 per hour under optimal conditions.
This sky show is one of the greatest, and it is totally free to anyone who is interested. Here is all you need to do:
- go to a dark area in the countryside, as far from artificial lights as possible, and be prepared to sit comfortably for several hours. Between midnight and dawn is generally best.
- give your eyes 20-30 minutes to adjust fully to the darkness.
- meteors can be anywhere in the sky, but will appear to be streaking away from the constellation Perseus. The Perseid meteors still start to fly at mid-to-late evening from northerly latitudes.
- meteors may be anything from a faint streak to a “fire ball,” so be alert.
- friends recommended; snacks optional