Everybody’s favorite fiesta of fireballs is back again for 2019. The Perseid meteor shower is already underway, but it will reach its peak from Sunday, Aug. 11 through Tuesday, Aug. 13, with prime time coming Monday night and Tuesday morning.
The Perseids are an annual gift from the comet Swift-Tuttle. Debris particles associated with the comet flare up in Earth’s atmosphere, giving the illusion of falling stars. The streaking lights appear to come from the direction of the constellation Perseus, hence the Perseids name.
The Perseids start kicking up in mid-July and stay active through most of August. “Normal rates seen from rural locations range from 50-75 shower members per hour at maximum,” says the American Meteor Society.
We have some bad timing to contend with this year. The moon will be close to full right at the shower’s peak, and its brightness will put a damper on meteor spotting. “But the Perseids are rich in bright meteors and fireballs, so it will still be worth going out in the early morning to catch some of nature’s fireworks,” NASA says.
People in the Northern Hemisphere will have the best views. You’ll need to stay up until the wee hours of the morning, or get up before dawn to spot the most meteors. If you’re absolutely not a morning person, you can still head out late in the evening and look for fireballs. Just don’t expect to see as many as the early a.m. viewers.
You don’t have to leave the comfort of your computer to enjoy the Perseids. If clouds or other obstacles get in the way, tune into the NASA Meteor Watch Facebook page for a live camera feed from Alabama starting around 6 p.m. PT on Aug. 12.
The Virtual Telescope Project in Europe will share its own live feed starting at 3 p.m. PT on Aug. 12.
As with all meteor showers, it’s smart to carve out a chunk of time to kick back and watch the night sky. Try to find a spot that’s open and away from city lights as much as possible. Let your eyes adjust to the darkness.
Even with the moon butting in, you should still be able to catch some celestial fireworks.
Originally published Aug. 6.