Probably one of the most famous meteor showers peaks this Wednesday and Thursday! Seriously everyone, notify your friends now; this is one of your best chances to catch shooting stars ALL YEAR!
WHEN is it?
Technically the Perseids season began on July 17th, but unlike the Southern Delta Aquarids the Perseids have a peak, and boy is it a big one! Astronomers predict that this year there will be about a maximum of 100 meteors per hour but the Perseids have had peaks of over 200 meteors per hour as recently as 2004! The peak actually goes from Tuesday until Friday, but if you had to pick one day go for Wednesday or Thursday. The Constellation Perseus rises around 1 am. The exact times the meteor shower is above the horizon, however, is dependent on where you are. Luckly, the new moon is August 14th so you do not have to worry about the brightness of the moon flushing out the meteors.
WHERE should you look?
You want to be looking in the constellation Perseus as its name suggests! Perseus is in the northeast. However, if you are having trouble finding Perseus on your Star Map, it is right next to Constellation Taurus (opposite to Orion). To be sure you are in the right constellation, click a star on your star map, it should give you Perseus as its location even if it doesn’t let you search for the constellation itself. A good way to figure out when the constellation rises and sets is to check your phone using a star gazing up (like the one I suggested). Pick a star in the constellation and use the app to figure out when it rises and sets. If you use the app I do, make sure you turn on sky object trajectories and use that as a guide for where the star (or constellation) will be at what time. It should be on automatically but in case it is not, it is the button on the upper right of the settings (as shown on the right).
WHAT are the meteors made of?
The Perseids are the remains left by the comet Swift-Tuttle. This comet only orbits the sun every 133 years. When it last came by, the sun burnt up quite a bit of material which was left in the Earth’s orbit. This material is what comes raining down every early August. Comet Swift-Tuttle will be swinging back by us in 2126 with a due date of mid July (dangerously close to when its orbit is close to ours). I hope to be around to see that up close!
NEXT ON THE LINEUP: Draconids October 8th