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How to watch the dazzling Perseid meteor showers this weekend

How to watch the dazzling Perseid meteor showers this weekend
[Photo: courtesy of Bill Ingalls/NASA]

This weekend the night sky will light up with the debris left behind by the Swift-Tuttle comet. The Perseid meteors, which earn their name through their proximity to the constellation Perseus (don’t know who that is? Go watch Clash of the Titans), occur once a year when the Earth crosses through the resident dust cloud.

This year’s Perseid shower–as well as other meteor showers that happen to be drifting through the sky–promises to be particularly impressive, because the new moon will be incredibly faint, meaning the meteors will have center stage. According to Sky and Telescope, comet peepers can expect to see around 60 meteors an hour during the peak, with no bright moon mucking up the view.

A few Perseids can typically be seen each night between July 17 and August 24, but they will hit their peak from August 11 to 13, particularly from Sunday night into Monday morning.

Here’s how to maximize viewing:

  • Find a dark location, far from light pollution, such as a park or designated dark-sky area. If you’re on the West Coast, be aware that, as AccuWeather points out, the wildfires may make the meteors harder to see.
  • Head outside after 11 p.m., when the Perseus constellation is higher in the sky. Or maybe even a little earlier, because, as NASA points out, it may take up to an hour for your eyes to fully adjust to the darkness–so give yourself plenty of time to settle in to view the meteors.
  • If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, you should be able to spot the meteors in the northeastern sky. Sit back and watch the skies–or just sleep in and wait for hardier folks to post photos of the meteor showers on Instagram.
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