The Perseids Peak This Week


The Perseids are coming, the Perseids are coming! Well, technically, the meteor shower is already here, but you have a better chance of seeing meteors over the next several days, as their frequency is on the increase up to the peak on August 13.

It is no coincidence that the words meteor and meteorology start the same way. In fact, meteorologists are often asked if they study rocks, even though we try to leave that to the geologists. But both words come from ancient Greek. The word meteoros means high in the sky, so it’s not much of a stretch for it to apply to both the study of weather, and pieces of comets.

In the case of the Perseids though, it is indeed the meteorology that makes them one of the most famous meteor showers. The overall pleasant time of year, when being out late after sunset, or up and outside before the sunrises, doesn’t require as many extra layers as hiking Mount Everest, like it would in the winter. In fact, during the first couple weeks of August, it is not uncommon for a very large dome of high pressure to engulf much of the lower 48, creating relatively quiet weather and other than pulse up storms, relatively clear skies. This combination of comfortable temperatures and good views makes the Perseids a very meteorologically friendly meteor shower.

Where to spot the meteor shower

The red outlines the area of the sky where you are most likely to see the Perseids peak this week. (Image Credit: NASA)

So if you are convinced that a little star gazing is in your future over the next few nights, you are in luck. The Northern Hemisphere is the ideal half of the world to be in to spot these streaks. Find the constellation Perseus, as this is where it will appear that the meteor tails are coming from. For night owls, at around 2am, look above the Northeast horizon to find Perseus, recognized by its classic “Y” shape. However, if you really want the best chance for a view, the pre dawn early morning hours are your best chance, with as many as 50 to 80 meteors per hour in the darkness of August 12 into the early morning of August 13. There is however one caveat: Coinciding with the highest rate of meteors will also be a full moon. The brightness of the moon means that only the brightest meteors will be visible, which equals somewhere near 20 an hour.
Still, it’s always a good show, even if you can only see a couple.

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