NASA’s tips for best Perseid meteor shower viewing
When dozens of shooting stars stream across the sky during one of the year’s most anticipated meteor showers tonight, clouds are likely to disrupt stargazers in the Southeast — but not in North Carolina.
The popular Perseid meteor shower is set to peak overnight between Aug. 12 and 13, AccuWeather reports. Visibility will be best on the West Coast and across the southern Plains due to “cloud-free conditions.”
But parts of North and South Carolina also share the same “good” forecast for viewing, according to AccuWeather’s visibility map. The rest of the Eastern Seaboard remains in the “fair” to “poor” category.
The Perseids are among the most popular meteor showers that occur yearly, according to the American Meteor Society, mostly because the warm August climate makes them ideal for viewing from the Northern Hemisphere.
Its “impressive number of meteors” are also only second in size to Geminids, another meteor shower due in December, AccuWeather said.
AMS reports that 50 to 75 meteors per hour at maximum are expected during Perseid. But AccuWeather blogger Dave Samuhel reported in a post that up to 100 are possible.
The moon may prove inconvenient to some viewers, which the AMS said will be 94 percent full tonight. According to NASA, a full moon at shower peak could reduce the meteor rates “from over 60 per hour down to 15-20 per hour.”
“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 said in a blog post earlier this month.
The shower is best viewed around 2 a.m. or at the crack of dawn, NASA said. But viewers can go out anytime after dark — around 9 p.m. — to see it.
NASA said it will also be broadcasting the Perseids live from a camera in Huntsville, Alabama, on the NASA Meteor Watch Facebook page starting at 8 p.m.
Space.com recommends going someplace dark in the suburbs or countryside for the best viewing conditions.
“It takes about 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark, and the longer you wait outside, the more you’ll see,” the space website reported. “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.”
The Perseids are caused by the Earth passing through the path of the Comet Swift-Tuttle, according to Space.com. The peak occurs when it passes through the “densest, dustiest area.”
Comet Swift-Tuttle repeatedly passes by Earth and is the largest object known to do so at 16 miles wide, the space site reports.
“It last passed nearby Earth during its orbit around the sun in 1992, and the next time will be in 2126,” Space.com said. “But it won’t be forgotten in the meantime, because Earth passes through the dust and debris it leaves behind every year, creating the annual Perseid meteor shower.”