Dazzling Perseid Meteor Shower to Reach Its Peak Tonight

Wednesday, 12 August 2015 - 9:46AM
Astronomy
Wednesday, 12 August 2015 - 9:46AM
Dazzling Perseid Meteor Shower to Reach Its Peak Tonight
The Perseid meteor shower happens every year, but this year it will be more brilliant than ever. The celestial phenomenon happens to take place during a new moon this year, which means that there will be little competing light in the sky. So when the meteor shower reaches its peak tonight, you will likely be able to see the spectacular show with perfect clarity.



The Perseid meteor shower, which the Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland calls "one of the best and most reliable meteor showers of the year," occurs each year when Earth passes through debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle. The comet sheds the material as it orbits around the Sun, leaving behind a "river of rubble" consisting of tiny particles of ice and dust. The particles hit the Earth's atmosphere at 37 m/s, and create a streak of light when they excite the atmospheric particles around them.

The shower takes place starting at the end of July and extends through most of August. But the best time for viewing will be tonight, Wednesday, August 12, or more specifically, at 4am ET on Thursday, August 13. At its peak, amateur astronomers could see up to 100 meteors per hour.

Alan MacRobert, senior editor at Sky & Telescope magazine, said of the conditions this year, "The nearly moonless sky this year means the viewing will be excellent."

As a result of these optimal conditions, the shower will be visible almost everywhere in the country. City lights could drown out the meteor shower somewhat, but Mike Hankey, the Operations Manager for the American Meteor Society, told Business Insider, "Generally if you can drive 30 minutes or more away from the city, you'll be ok."

Here's a map of light pollution in the United States:

Perseid Meteor Shower to Reach Its Peak Tonight

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"If you made it to an orange zone or better, you'd be able to observe," said Hankey. "Another way to gauge the light -- if you can see some stars, then you can see some meteors. If you look up and see nothing, then you need to keep moving away from the city."
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