First posted on 08-08-2012
If you’ve wished upon a falling star this summer, you’ve probably caught one of the Perseid meteors. This summer spectacular is already underway, but the peak will occur this weekend. The International Meteor Organization predicts 50 to 60 meteors per hour during the mornings of August 11, 12 and 13. With a waning moon reflecting less light each night, viewing should be excellent.
Records of Perseid observations date back over 2,000 years. The meteors result from a debris trail left behind by the Swift-Tuttle comet. Those dust and ice particles slam into the Earth’s atmosphere at tens of thousands of miles per hour and ignite from the incredible friction they encounter at those speeds.
By this year’s peak viewing times during the weekend—after midnight and up until an hour before dawn—the moon will be a thin crescent, so the sky above will be dark enough to make a dramatic backdrop for the show.
Meteors seem to originate from the constellation Perseus, in the northeastern sky. Looking slightly away from the constellation actually seems to produce the best viewing results. City lights and street lamps compete with meteors, so head to a spot with less light pollution in order to get the maximum effect.
So, set the alarm, grab a comfortable chair and look to the heavens for an outstanding summer show. And you might want to keep some insect repellant handy, too. We’ve had just enough rain in the Ozarks to stir up a few bugs.
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