One of the most popular meteor showers of the year, the Perseid meteor shower, is underway as we head into the heart of summer. While we are still at the beginning, activity will increase significantly over the next two weeks. Eventually, meteor activity will peak in early to mid August.
Every year around this time, our planet passes through a field of space debris left behind from the comet Swift-Tuttle. These bits of space debris, also known as meteoroids, pass through the upper levels of Earth’s atmosphere. As they burn up at speeds of 170 thousand miles per hour, they create the vibrant meteor streaks we see from the ground. Almost all of the space debris burns up in the atmosphere, but it just so happens to make it to Earth’s surface, it is known as a meteorite. This is extremely rare.
The Perseid meteor shower began around July 17 and roughly lasts through August 24. It will peak with activity in the morning of August 11, 12 and 13. The best time to view is between 12:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. before the sun comes up. During its peak, between 60 and 100 meteors can be viewed per hour in prime viewing conditions. As long as you can find some clear skies, 2021 looks to be a great year for viewing. The moon will be in a waxing crescent phase and it will set in the early evening. This means it should not be in the way for overnight viewing. Often times bright moonlight can inhibit how many meteors you can see.
Here are few viewing tips:
- Get out away from the city lights. The darker the better.
- Look in the northeast sky toward the Perseus constellation. This is where the meteors generally stem from.
- Allow plenty of time to view. It can take your eyes over 20 minutes to dark adjust. Also, try and not check your phone as the bright light can also inhibit your viewing.
- You do not need any special gear or binoculars.
- Lay flat on your back and enjoy the show.
The general forecast is looking relatively dry for the near future. We could see a mix of clear skies and clouds, especially this weekend. A few storms are possible late Saturday into early Sunday morning. Temperatures at night are looking mild for the upcoming stretch.
-Meteorologist Warren Sears