Perseid meteor shower peaks this weekend - here’s how to watch

Cristina Cross
August 11, 2018

The best time to view is after midnight each night.

Saturday and Sunday night, August 11th and 12th, mark the peak of the meteor shower that is already going on.

Because it's in a new phase, the moon won't be up and the night sky will be darker, said Bruce Twarog, a University of Kansas professor with the department of physics and astronomy. In the evening, starting around 10 p.m., you'll see fewer meteors, but those that do appear will be longer-lasting and tend to have longer tails.

Twarog describes the Perseid meteor shower as "spectacular", however he doesn't get too excited about the event.

Perhaps you might remember an unbelievable meteor show back in the early 1990s?

So when is the Perseid meteor shower? "You'll want to look northeast".

"What we're seeing when we see meteors are little dust particles lighting up the atmosphere". Perseid meteors, caused by debris left behind by the Comet Swift-Tuttle, began streaking across the skies in late July and will peak on August 12.

Part of the reason the Perseids really sizzle in the summer sky in the northern hemisphere isn't the seasonal heat, but rather their speed, which can be almost 60 kilometers per second (134,000 miles per hour).

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These disturbances can also create complications as we attempt to send astronauts and spacecraft farther away from the Earth. When the probe begins its final orbits it will be moving at approximately 430,000 miles per hour, according to NASA .

While stars and star clusters are Twarog's specialty, he said he appreciates how the meteor showers light up the summer sky and anyone can appreciate the celestial wonder. It orbits the sun every 133 years and was last seen in 1992 - so it won't be back again until 2126.

The comet whose tail creates the Perseus shower is called 109P/Swift-Tuttle, and is named after the US astronomers Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle, who discovered it in 1862.

As long as you're in the Northern Hemisphere, the Perseid meteor shower will be right overhead.

Can I only watch the peak? Astronomers say up to 60 meteors per hour will be visible during this time.

In a similar way the Geminid meteor shower in December appears to originate from the constellation Gemini.

If you live in the glare of city lights, try watching the darkest portion of the sky from your backyard, a nearby park or school grounds.

The best viewing will be in a dark location without any light pollution. As with other meteor showers like the Leonids and the Orionids, the annual phenomenon takes its name from its constellation of apparent origin.

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