Aug. 11) - The annual Perseid meteor shower is expected to put on a good show this week for those willing to get up in the wee hours of the morning
and wait patiently for the shooting stars.
In North America, the best time to watch will be between midnight to 5 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 12, but late Tuesday night and also Wednesday night
could prove fruitful, weather permitting.
The Perseids are always reliable, and sometimes rather spectacular. The only things that puts a damper on the August show are bad weather or bright
moonlight. Unfortunately this week, as the Perseids reach their peak Tuesday and Wednesday nights, the moon will be high in the sky, outshining the
Still, skywatchers around the globe will have a good chance of spotting the brighter meteors. Some already are enjoying the show.
The Perseids are bits of debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle, which has laid down several streams of debris, each in a slightly different location, over
the centuries as it orbits the sun. Every August, Earth passes through these debris streams, which spread out over time.
"They are typically fast, bright and occasionally leave persistent trains," says Joe Rao, SPACE.com's Skywatching Columnist. "And every once in a
while, a Perseid fireball will blaze forth, bright enough to be quite spectacular and more than capable to attract attention even in bright
Low numbers of Perseids, including some bright fireballs, have already been reported as Earth began entering the stream in late July. Seasoned
observers have counted up to 25 per hour already, or nearly one every two minutes.
Most meteors are no bigger than a pea. They vaporize as they enter Earth's atmosphere, creating bright streaks across the sky.
The Perseids appear to emanate from the constellation Perseus, which rises high in the sky around midnight and is nearly overhead by dawn. Like most
meteor showers, the hours between midnight and daybreak are typically the best time to watch, because that's when the side of Earth you are on is
rotating into the direction of Earth's travels through space, so meteors are "scooped up" by the atmosphere at higher rates, much like a car's
windshield ends the lives of more bugs than does the rear bumper.
Astronomers expect up to 200 meteors per hour in short bursts of up to 15 minutes or so. But many of the fainter meteors will simply not be visible
due to moonlight, and rates will go down even more for those in urban areas. More likely a typical observer under reasonably dark skies might hope to
see a meteor every couple minutes when the bursts come, and fewer during lulls.
The best time to watch is between midnight and dawn Wednesday. Forecasters say the best stretch could come between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. ET (1-2 a.m. PT),
which would be after daybreak in Europe. Some Perseids might be visible late Tuesday night, and Wednesday night into Thursday morning could prove
Just giving those of you who care a heads up.