Stardust Symphony: The Perseids Meteor Shower

August has arrived and with it, the famed Perseids meteor shower. The Perseids will reach it’s peak during the early morning hours of August 13th. Combined with the waning crescent moon and for what currently appears to be clear/partly-cloudy skies for much of the state (southern part of the state may have some lingering thunderstorms/clouds), night-time conditions will be primed

“Begin watching for meteors soon after evening twilight ends on the evening of August 12th. By then the shower’s radiant — its perspective point of origin in the constellation Perseus — has risen above the northeastern horizon. The few Perseids that appear this early will be spectacularly long “earthgrazers” that skim along the top of the atmosphere. The higher the radiant, the more meteors you’ll see — so when Perseus climbs higher in the northeast, especially after midnight, more meteors will appear all over the sky. The Perseids are a long-lived event, and you should see meteors — though fewer in number — for several nights before and after the night of the peak.” – Sky and Telescope

Enjoying the Perseids requires no equipment other than your own peepers. Perseid Peepers!

  • Find a dark spot away from bright lights with a good, wide view.
  • Your eyes will need to adjust to the darkness which can take 15-30 minutes.
  • Bring along a comfy chair, a picnic blanket, etc. to avoid kinks in your neck.
  • The ‘shooting stars’ can appear from anywhere in the sky – originating from the constellation Perseus which will rise into the northeast sky after sunset.
  • Peak viewing time will be between midnight August 13th and dawn early Sunday morning.
    • Keep in mind, the Perseids are NOT a 1-night event. The PEAK is Saturday night into Sunday morning but the shower can be observed several days prior and several days after the peak.

A more unique viewing suggestion would be to grab a telescope and focus on the darkened portion of the crescent moon. Taking video may reveal a few impact flashes on the lunar surface. Additionally, if you’re a radio operator, it’s possible to hear the meteor impacts as the burn up in Earth’s atmosphere. These particles hit Earth at speeds over 100,000 mph which compresses the air in its path. This creates the glowing trail of molecules that are then ionized by the impact and it’s that ionization trail that can be detected as radio waves (they sound like pings on a submarine radar). If you’d like to hear these ‘meteor echoes’ you can listen at ‘” or try it out for yourself!

This year’s forecast is expected to produce ~60 meteors per hour. Many will be small and appear as tiny, quick streaks. Others will be impressive as they sail across the sky lasting multiple seconds and leaving trails of smoke behind as they burn up in the atmosphere. According to NASA, the Perseids deliver more bright meteors than any other annual meteor shower.

For a neat visual animation, visit the link below to see different perspectives of the Perseids shower as viewed from space and years in the future! Have fun!

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