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Perseid Meteor Shower

Get ready for one of summers greatest shows: the Perseid Meteor Shower.

The Perseids are a prolific meteor shower associated with the comet Swift–Tuttle. The meteors are called the Perseids because the point from which they appear to hail (called the radiant) lies in the constellation Perseus. [Wikipedia]

Each August you can see the Perseid Meteor Shower just looking up, though the meteors will seem to originate from a place just beneath Cassiopeia which will be east. It’s easier to find the ‘W’ shaped constellation than Perseus, for which the shower is named.

The best time to be out there is a few hours after sundown.

Earth will pass through the path of Comet Swift-Tuttle from July 17 to August 24, with the shower’s peak [when Earth passes through the densest, dustiest area] occurring on the night of August 12-13. That means that you’ll see the most meteors in the shortest amount of time.

The key to seeing a meteor shower is to take in as much sky as possible.

Go to a dark area, in the suburbs or countryside, and prepare to sit outside for a few hours. It takes about 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark, and the longer you wait outside, the more you'll see. A rate of 60-70 meteors per hour, for instance, means around one meteor per minute, including faint streaks along with bright, fireball-generating ones.

You should bring something comfortable to sit on, some snacks and some bug spray. Then, just relax and look upward for the celestial show.

When you sit back to watch a meteor shower, you're actually seeing the pieces of comet debris heat up as they enter the atmosphere and burn up in a bright burst of light, streaking a vivid path across the sky as they travel at 37 miles per second. When they're in space, the pieces of debris are called "meteoroids," but when they reach Earth's atmosphere, they're designated as "meteors." If a piece makes it all the way down to Earth without burning up, it graduates to "meteorite."

While watching the Perseids should also be able to see Mars [visible until about 4 a.m.] and Saturn [visible until about 2 a.m]; Venus and Jupiter both set before the Perseids are best viewed [9:30 p.m. and 11 p.m., respectively]

Some great local viewing spots are:

  • The park area at the north end of Hemlock Lake

  • The north end of Canidice Lake

  • A boat in the middle of a lake

  • Any dark area where you can get comfortable and stay safe.

Go out with the family and watch the show. It’s much better than summer reruns or even Netflix.


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