Summer is the time of month when folks look forward to light shows -- fireflies and fireworks, to name a few. And summer meteor showers are no exception! With the month of August now in full swing, the Perseid meteor shower is what stargazers are looking forward to.
The Perseids annually run from July 17th on through to August 26th, with the peak of the shower appearing between August 9th - 16th. This shower's engendering comet is Comet Swift-Tuttle, whose cloud of debris has left patches in space for Earth to pass through every summer. As our planet's orbit intersects with this debris field, numerous meteoroids strike Earth's upper atmosphere, thus generating the August meteor shower display many enthusiasts have learned to love.
The meteor shower is so named because its 'shooting stars' seem to radiate from the constellation Perseus, which shall be in the northeastern part of the August sky. It is suggested that folks view meteor showers after midnight and on through to the pre-dawn hours. The Perseids are expected to produce upwards of fifty 'shooting stars' per hour during a good year.
Meanwhile, it should be noted that what is unique about the Perseid meteor shower is its incredible amount of fireballs. In fact, Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office has asserted: "We have found that one meteor shower produces more fireballs than any other. It's the Perseid meteor shower."
For folks planning to view this year's Perseids, it is recommended that a patch of dark sky be sought away from city light pollution. Having a blanket to lie on, or even a comfortable lawn chair, can help ease neck strain while gazing upward. Take precautions against mosquitoes and ticks. And be mindful of moonrise and moonset schedules, so as to plan your shower viewing around the moonlight.
Indeed, this year the August 10th full moon is a supermoon -- it is expected to be the brightest of this year's three supermoons. That means there is high likelihood for the moonlight to wash out the faint light from the Perseids' display. However, there is still time to catch the Perseids in the next few days prior to the supermoon's arrival.
Happy Hunting amongst the stars! And, have your wishes ready as well for the Perseids!