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The annual Perseid meteor shower will fill the night sky with light and vibrant colors from now until Aug. 24.
The shower is expected to peak around Aug. 11 through 13, during which time up to 100 meteors an hour will shoot across the sky at 37 miles per second.
Don’t miss this “best meteor shower of the year” — as described by NASA — featuring fast and bright meteors that can be easily viewed outside this summer.
What is the Perseid meteor shower?
Perseid showers occur when Earth traverses through a trail of cosmic debris given off by 109PSwift-Tuttle — a comet that won’t return to the inner solar system until 2125, since it takes 133 years to orbit the sun. The meteors make the night sky shine because of their “fireballs.” Viewers will see larger and brighter explosions of light in the sky than in previous years, appearing for longer than a typical meteor streak.
109PSwift-Tuttle was discovered in 1862 by Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle independently of one another. The comet’s nucleus is 16 miles across, which is about twice the size of the space rock thought to have killed many dinosaurs 66 million years ago, according to Live Science.
Why are the Perseids considered the “best meteor shower of the year”?
According to NASA, fireballs occur when larger particles of space rock interact with Earth. Although the meteors will appear all over the sky, the meteors appear to radiate from the constellation Perseus, the 24th largest constellation. The fast and vibrant space rocks often leave behind long streaks of light and color. And this year during the peak, the moon will be waxing crescent with only 13% illumination, meaning that moonlight will not drown out the colorful array of lights.
When is the Perseid meteor shower and what time will it peak?
The Perseids come to town each year in mid-July and will continue this year through Aug. 24, but they won’t always be easy to spot. According to NASA, the ideal time to see the showers is on the night of Aug. 11 or super early on Aug. 12, as the shower’s peak occurs before dawn. You can see meteors across the Northern Hemisphere sky without equipment if the sky is clear of light pollution. NASA’s meteor calculator and the International Dark Sky Association’s dark sky finder can reveal your best viewing spot.
Meteors can also be seen as early as 10 p.m. on any night the shower is happening, but chances are there will be fewer meteors to see. NASA recommends that people not look at their phones while watching the shower to help their eyes adjust to the dark. The eyes need about 30 to 40 minutes to get used to the dark, Bill Cooke, lead of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, told Live Science.
Where is the best place to see the Perseid meteor shower?
Because the meteors will fill the sky, you don’t need to travel to a particular spot for the best views. However, it is recommended to find a dark spot away from urban areas, since city lights will mute fainter meteors. Also, don’t expect to see meteors right away — you might catch one immediately, but chances are that your eyes need to adjust to the dark sky. But don’t get discouraged: These meteors can appear anywhere at any time, which is why telescopes or binoculars are ill-advised.
Many photographers will likely be setting up their cameras to capture the shower’s peak, and Cooke said that photographers should bring a camera and a tripod. They should set up cameras to take a long exposure for a duration of a few seconds to a minute. Any longer than that and they risk getting the rotation of the stars in the photo, which may obscure the meteors.
Where else can I watch the Perseids?
International Dark Sky Parks will likely be the best places to go for amazing views of the Perseids. These include Grand Canyon National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park and Cherry Spring State Park, among many others.
Current weather predictions for the New York City area reveal partly cloudy skies, but you’ll still be able to catch a glimpse of colorful light. Some of the best places in New York City to view the Perseids include Inwood Hill Park, Floyd Bennett Field, Carl Schurz Park, and Pelham Bay Park.
Why are the meteors called Perseids?
The Perseid meteor shower takes its name from how the shooting stars appear to stream from a point where the constellation of Perseus is located. In Greek mythology, Perseus — the son of Zeus and Danaë — slays Medusa and rescues Andromeda from a sea monster. Some Catholics, though, refer to the Perseids as the “tears of Saint Lawrence,” since they are suspended in the sky but return to Earth once a year on Aug. 10, the canonical date of Saint Lawrence’s martyrdom in 258 AD.
When is the next meteor shower in 2021?
Before the much-anticipated Perseids, catch a glimpse of the Southern Delta Aquariids, which are best seen from the southern Tropics. The meteors, though, are quite faint and lack fireballs customary of the Perseids.
Meanwhile, the Delta Aquariids — which are active from July 3 through Aug. 15 — will next peak on July 28 and 29 at night. On that same night, the Alpha Capricornids will peak and they do, indeed, produce many bright fireballs — which are seen equally well from either side of the equator.
And mark your calendars this fall for the Orionids, a medium-strength shower that sometimes reaches high strength activity. The Orionids will peak on Oct. 20 and 21 at night, but don’t get your hopes up too much since Orionids only produce between 10 and 20 shower members maximum. Between 2006 and 2009, though, the peak rates were on par with the Perseids.
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