The annual Perseid meteor shower peaks tonight into the early morning hours of Thursday, and astronomers are suggesting the potential for up to 100 meteors per hour.
There’s something humbling about laying in the grass and watching meteors streak throughout the night sky. The Perseid meteor shower provides arguably the best show of meteors in the night sky each year. Its annual occurrence during warm summer nights makes it easily the most comfortable meteor shower to watch of the bunch of “major” showers, many of which fall during the colder winter months. This year, a very dim moon will make viewing even more ideal during the peak of the meteor shower.
Why is the moonlight so important? To put it simply, it upstages the light of the meteors streaking throughout the sky. When the moon is full, you may still see meteors — but the smaller, dimmer activity (which is typically more frequent than the bright ones) is blocked out by the bright light of the moon in the sky. This year, the thin crescent moon is not expected to interfere at all.
What causes the Perseid meteor shower?
The meteors are actually relatively small particles and dust from the tail of Comet Swift-Tuttle. Earth swings through this area once per year. These particles enter the earths atmosphere and burn up, creating bright flashes and streaks of light as they race through the night sky.
The meteor shower peaks tonight, from Wednesday August 12th into the early morning hours of Thursday August 13th.
Will the weather be favorable for viewing tonight?
We are in luck! With a cold front moving through today, the air is much less moist and won’t feature as many clouds and showers as the past few days. Colder air in the mid/upper levels of the atmosphere could promote some clouds and isolated storms this afternoon, but these will quickly dissipate by evening. By mid evening, clear skies are expected with terrific viewing for the meteor shower.
How can I see the meteors?
If you’re in New York City: Get out of New York City. All kidding aside, the city light interferes greatly with viewing anything in the night sky. Head out to the suburbs of New Jersey, New York, Long Island, or Connecticut. Light pollution in those areas is far less than within the 5 Boros. This will give you a much better chance to see the meteors.
All you truly have to do, then, is find a comfortable spot and wait for your eyes to adjust. The great thing about the Perseids is that the don’t have a very specific radiant point where you are required to look to see them. They will streak across the entire sky in different directions. So once your eyes adjust to the night sky, you will be able to see them quite easily by simply looking up.
How many meteors can I expect to see?
With tonight being the peak of the meteor shower, numbers are expected to range from 40 to 80 per hour, with a peak of near 100 meteors per hour possible after midnight tonight, according to astronomers. The amount you actually see will vary greatly depending on your exact location. But the show is very consistent year to year — and during the peak of the shower, the numbers are comfortably frequent so that you will see plenty of meteors if you take the time to sit outside and watch.
One thing that can be guaranteed if you follow the steps above is that you will be treated to a show. Meteor showers are a true spectacle, and a great event for families and friends to enjoy.