This year's Perseid meteor shower will be highly visible both Saturday and Sunday night, giving watchers ample opportunity to spot plenty of shooting stars.
The Perseid meteor shower has been taking place since mid-July, but will hit its peak this coming weekend. Unfortunately, there's always the chance that bad weather like fog or rain will create unfavorable viewing conditions.
For casual and die-hard astronomers alike, the middle of August means the return of the Perseid meteor shower.
The peak nights for this year's shower will be from August 11 to 12 and August 12 to 13, with more than 100 meteors visible per hour, according to Gary Boyle, an Ottawa-based astronomer.
METEORS come from the small particles, around the size of a grain of sand, left behind by comets (and some asteroids) as they orbit the sun.
"Comets are spectacular and handsome and take months to go across the sky but every time they go near the sun they are melted down a little bit". Your meteor rates will be lower, but it's possible to see at least a few of the brightest meteors over the course of a few hours.
What's great about the Perseids is they can be enjoyed during summer's warmth, unlike the often nippy nights during the Leonids of November or Geminids of December. "You can look anywhere you want to - even directly overhead". The Perseids are best seen after 11 PM, away from city lights, and while looking at the northeastern sky.
Spectators in the Northern Hemisphere will have the best view of the Perseid meteor shower, as the meteors will appear to radiate out from the constellation Perseus in the northeastern sky. But the best time to watch the shower is in the pre-dawn hours of 3-5 a.m. when the moon has set and Perseus is high in the sky.
This year the meteor shower is predicted to reach its peak on the night of August 12, as Earth passes through the densest part of the Comet 109/Swift-Tuttle's trail. So that's the part of the sky you should anchor your meteor search from, but they will scatter across the sky as shooting stars from there.
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Keen stargazers may have already spotted one or two streaking meteors since around mid-July when the Perseids started to appear. When the Earth's orbit crosses a trail of these particles they can collide with our atmosphere and burn up as shooting stars.
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