Look up! We are in the midst of a Perseids Meteor Shower. The shower started July 23rd and will continue until August 22. The light from the recent full moon has kept most of the show invisible to us. However, the waning moon will darken the skies and we should start to see meteors streak across the night sky more easily. The peak of the annual Perseids meteor shower will be this weekend, late Saturday night (August 11, 2012) and early Sunday morning (August 12, 2012) with 60-100 meteors an hour being visible in the northern hemisphere.
What Is A Meteor/Meteor Shower?
Meteors occur when small space debris or dust enters the Earth’s atmosphere and disintegrates. We can see this in the night time skies as falling or shooting stars. They can be caused by debris as small as grains of sand. When the Earth passes through the tail of debris that follows a comet, a meteor shower occurs. This summer’s Perseids meteor shower is caused by the Earth passing through the tail of the Swift-Tuttlecomet. The shower will appear to be coming from the constellation Perseus, therefore the name “Perseids Meteor Shower”.
How and Where To Watch
If you want to see the meteor shower in it’s peak, find a spot away from city lights in the pre-dawn hours Sunday, August 12th. Lie down on a blanket on the ground and look up. Spacedex.comgives this advice -
Once you have settled down at your observation spot, look approximately half way up the sky facing northeast. This way you can have the Perseids’ radiant within your field of view. Looking directly up at the sky or into the radiant is not recommended since this is just the point in which they appear to come from. You are more likely to see a trail when looking slightly away from this point. Looking half-way up into the sky will lead to the best show in the house!
Getting Up Early
Growing up, my dad used to wake us up at all hours to head out to stare at the sky and search for meteors. It was hard waking up, but usually worth the effort. I’m looking forward to dragging the kids out of bed in the middle of the night this weekend. Hopefully, they’ll enjoy the show! Are you getting up early with us?