Any meteorologist worth his/her salt will tell you the Perseid meteor shower is one of nature’s all-time most spectacular light shows. Perseids will peak on the night of Saturday, August 12th, weather permitting. They are named because they appear to originate in the constellation Perseus located in the northern hemisphere can produce anywhere from 50-100 meteors per hour under perfect conditions.
The Perseid meteor showers occur as Earth’s orbit brings us into the dust from comet Swift-Tuttle. These dust particles often produce a spectacular glow and typically appear to move from north to south in the night sky as they encounter Earth’s outer atmosphere.
The Perseids can be seen with the naked eye any time after total sunset which occurs at about 8:20 PM EDT. However there are some notable limiting factors tonight.
City lights. Try and get away from street lights, porch light, etc. Wait a while. Your eyes will take 5-10 minutes to adjust to the darkness. You’ll stay out longer if you’re comfortable. It’s best to find spot with a wide-view of the night sky. Bring a blanket or lawn chair so you can sprawl out and get comfortable.
The moon. Depending on your location/topography, the moon will rise above the horizon at approximately 11:20 PM Saturday night. Bright light from a not-quite-full waning gibbous moon will cut the number of meteors one can expect to see in half. So, the best sky-watching may occur between the hours of 9:00 PM and midnight. According to a recent article, try to find a spot in the shadow of the moon that still provides a wide expanse of the night sky.
Clouds. Cloud cover will diminish Saturday evening/early overnight as stable, dry high pressure builds into the region in the wake of the latest cold front. That’s good news for stargazers but areas of dense fog are expected to develop especially from just before midnight into pre-dawn Sunday. Low clouds/fog could result in visibility restrictions to half-a-mile or less and may significantly limit your chances of seeing a meteor.
Despite these limiting factors, the Perseids remain one of our most favorite celestial light shows. Plus, it goes without saying, it's free! We estimate the casual sky-watcher might see 5-15 meteors per hour. Try to include your friends, family and shout out when you see a ‘shooting star’ so others may find it too. Tune into WBOY 12 News Weekend Edition for tonight's forecast and more. For more tips and facts, visit earthsky.org.