Between July 17 and August 24 of every year, the Perseid meteor shower puts on one of the brightest cosmic events to hit the night sky.
The Persed Meteor’s peak is predicted to last from August 12-13 this year. Skywatchers in the northern hemisphere can expect to see up to 100 shooting stars per hour, provided they’ve found some dark, clear skies for viewing.
And for the first time since 2010, that task has been made easy, because the peak of August 13 also happens to fall on the night before a new moon, which means we’re guaranteed a Moonless backdrop with which to view the event. According to NASA,
If you see one meteor shower this year, make it August’s Perseids or December’s Geminids. The Perseids feature fast and bright meteors that frequently leave trains, and in 2015 there will be no moonlight to upstage the shower.”
The Perseids are named after the constellation Perseus because that’s where the point from which they appear to originate, called the radiant, is located. The meteor shower is made up of particles that have been released from Comet 109/Swift-Tuttleas it zooms in and out of the inner Solar System.
So, for skywatchers in the northern hemisphere, experts recommend watching for the meteor shower after midnight on either August 12 or 13. And don’t worry about acquiring any fancy equipment – you’ll be able to see everything easily just with the naked eye, especially if you can get out of the city and away from the smog and light pollution.
According to Jolene Creighton at Quarks to Quasars, the 60 to 100 meteors you’ll be able to see during the meteor shower’s peak each hour will be blasting into Earth’s atmosphere at speeds of around 209,000 km/h (130,000 mph).
And interestingly, most of these meteors are amazingly small. Most particles are about the size of a small rock or beach sand, and they weigh just about 1-2 grams (roughly the same as a paperclip),” she says.
Unfortunately for those in the southern hemisphere, the event won’t be quite so spectacular, with experts predicting that only 1/3 of the meteors will be visible to you this year. But don’t let that stop you! Ian Musgrave at Astroblog has some advice for Australian skywatchers to follow this week:
People around the latitude of Darwin have the best chance of seeing meteors, possibly as many as one every 3 minutes at the peak. Next is places with the latitude of Cairns, then with the latitude of Mackay (like Port Headland and Mt Isa), and the places with the latitude of Alice Springs.
To see the meteors, you will need to be up from around 3:00am local time on the 12th, 13th or 14th (yes, a really horrible hour in the morning), with best views 4:00am to 5:30am on the 13th and 14th. The meteor shower will be located due North, with the radiant just above the northern horizon. Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.
Wherever you are in the world, we wish you the best of luck spotting these bright cosmic beauties. Just make sure you arm yourself with a comfy deckchair, a loved one, and lots of patience, and you’ll be in for a spectacular night of skywatching.
via Science Alert