Perseid Meteor Showers Climax Sunday and Monday Nights
Truly, some of the best moments in life are free. The smell of salt in the air near the sea, pine needles underfoot walking through a forest – and watching meteor showers in a light-free area – an isolated beach, a desert, or out on a boat 🙂
USA Today and staff reports
Get outside this weekend and check out the shooting stars of summer.
The year’s best celestial fireworks show is on tap in the wee hours of Sunday and Monday as the annual Perseid meteor shower takes center stage in the night sky.
Sky watchers may see as many as 50 to 100 meteors an hour as it peaks in the early morning hours before dawn. But if you don’t want to stay up so late, don’t fret. The reliable shower is known to produce some brilliant meteors between 10 p.m. and midnight, too.
Summer is a perfect time to watch meteors. Plunking down on a blanket or sitting in the dark in a reclining lawn chair works fine. Temperatures in the Pensacola area during the evening are forecast for the mid-70s and there is a chance of an occasional thunderstorm. All you have to do is lie flat on your back and enjoy the show.
The key to seeing meteors is finding a fairly dark sky unspoiled by artificial lighting. If heading to the country or finding a dark beach is not in the cards, the backyard will work fine as an observing platform as long as outside lights are kept off.
Perseids are known for fireballs, brilliant trails of light produced as tiny grains of comet dust slam into the upper atmosphere at nearly 134,000 mph. The shower’s cosmic dust grains — about one-fifth of an inch across — burn nicely as they zip overhead. Those dust grains come courtesy of Comet Swift-Tuttle, which circles the sun once every 133 years and leaves behind a debris trail. (Comets are basically dirty snowballs that develop tails when they approach the sun and start to melt.
“The Perseids are the good ones,” said meteorite expert Bill Cooke of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
The Perseids are named after the constellation Perseus, the hero of Greek mythology born from a shower of heavenly gold. As Perseus rises in the northeast sky after midnight, the meteors appear to emanate near the constellation.
You will have to stay up late to see the Perseids at their peak. The best viewing comes from midnight to dawn, particularly after the half-full moon sets both nights after midnight, said Astronomy magazine’s Michael Bakich.
“There will be a dozen ‘Ooh’ moments in that hour,” Bakich said. “Ones when everyone will say, ‘Did you see that?’ ”
Though the shooting stars seem to come from the constellation Perseus, don’t look there to see them, Bakich advises. Instead, look about one-third of the sky down and away from the constellation to spot meteors streaking across the sky.
“That makes them easier to pick out,” he said.
No comments yet.