Saturday, December 9, 2023

Perseid meteor shower has begun – here’s how to see the show

An outburst of Perseid meteors lights up the sky in August 2009 in this time-lapse image. Stargazers expect a similar outburst during next week’s Perseid meteor shower, which will be visible overnight on Aug. 11 and 12. (Courtesy NASA)
An outburst of Perseid meteors lights up the sky in August 2009 in this time-lapse image. Stargazers expect a similar show during this year’s Perseid meteor shower, which will be at its peak and visible on Aug. 11 and 12 if weather permits. (Courtesy NASA)

Save the date: The Perseid meteor shower will light up the sky this Aug. 11 and 12, and it’s expected to be one of the best stargazing opportunities this year.

Weather-permitting, Southsiders will be able to view the annual meteor shower between midnight and dawn on the night of Aug. 11 and 12, according to a NASA news release.

The event technically began July 17 and will run until Aug. 24, with a peak mid-August, said Will Snyder, planetarium director of North Carolina’s Ingram Planetarium.

Snyder offered his advice for those hoping to catch a view of some of the show.

“In terms of viewing the Perseids (or any meteor shower), you want to be some place with a dark sky away from as many lights as possible,” he said. “The problem this year is that our waxing gibbous Moon will be shining brightly during peak of the shower, making it more difficult to spot the dimmer shooting stars.”

Although the Perseids pass by Earth every year, this year’s meteor shower is expected to be better and brighter than most previous years, the release said. The trails of debris that makes up the Perseids – left behind by an ancient comet – will come much closer to our planet this year.

(The meteor shower isn’t the only astronomical event happening in August – for the first time in 99 years, there will be a total solar eclipse crossing the entire country.)

The best place to see the meteor shower is in a dark area without much light pollution, the release said. NASA also recommends standing outside for 45 minutes before watching the meteor shower, to allow viewers’ vision to adjust to the dark.

“Forecasters are predicting a Perseid outburst this year with double normal rates on the night of Aug. 11-12,” said Bill Cooke with NASA’s Meteoroid Environments Office in Huntsville, Alabama. “Under perfect conditions, rates could soar to 200 meteors per hour.”

The last Perseid outburst was in 2009, the release said.

Luckily, NASA says the Perseids pose no danger to Earth, despite coming a little closer to the planet than usual this year. Most meteors “burn up” about 50 miles above Earth, the release said.

Accuweather’s extended forecast is predicting clouds and humidity on Aug. 11 in Virginia Beach and possible strong thunderstorms Aug. 12.

For stargazers experiencing cloudy or light-polluted skies, a live broadcast of the Perseid meteor shower will be available via Ustream overnight on Aug. 11-12 and Aug. 12-13, beginning at 10 p.m., NASA said.

Southside Daily’s sister publications, Port City Daily and WYDaily, contributed reporting. 

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