The Perseid Meteors

Perseid_Vic_341px Veteran starwatchers perennially mark their calendars for the annual Perseid Meteor shower – which always peaks between Aug. 9th and 14th – because it's arguably the best "shooting star" gallery of the year. And for those who've experienced a good meteor show, you know exactly how much fun it can be.

This year, the meteor peak [100 meteors per hour] is projected to be on the late evening/early morning of Aug. 12th/13th – Thursday/Friday. And, with only a slender slip of a delicate crescent Moon – which sets in early evening, leaving a very dark night sky – the show promises to be stellar – as long as the skies are clear.  As with all meteor showers, the rate is greatest in the pre-dawn hours, since the side of the Earth turning into the sun scoops up more meteors as the Earth moves through space. And, if you happen to miss the shower's peak, check it out the following night. The Perseid viewing window actually lasts for approximately six weeks – from mid-July to the end of August – but observation is best when a dark Moon coincides with the Earth's movement through the dust cloud left behind by comet Swift-Tuttle – which happens to be right now!

Look for the meteors to radiate from the constellation of Perseus, which is located between Taurus and Aries below and Cassiopeia above. Results will vary due to local weather conditions and the individual degree of artificial light pollution, but at a very dark, rural site, you can expect to see almost two per minute. (When the radiant (in northern Perseus) is highest in the sky before the first light of dawn.)

To get the most enjoyment while watching for the Perseids, find a dark spot with an open sky view, bundle up thoroughly in blankets or a sleeping bag (for mosquito shielding as well as warmth, and don't forget the repellent), and lie back in a reclining chair. Gaze up into the stars, and be patient. The best direction to watch is wherever your sky is darkest, usually straight up, perhaps with a little inclination toward the radiant. That's all there is to it! Showtime begins sometimes between midnight and 2:00 a.m. MDT – enjoy the show!

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