The always anticipated Perseids meteor shower began July 17 as Earth passed through the path of the Comet Swift-Tuttle, but the shower known for its blazing bright meteors won’t peak until Aug. 12. If your eyes have feasted on any meteors already, they could be part of the Delta Aquarids meteor shower, which started last week and continues through Aug. 13.
And don’t forget, there are two other spectacular celestial events coming up in August. The full moon is Aug. 7 (with an eclipse on the other side of the world that you should surely catch on the internet) and the solar eclipse will be visible across North America on Aug. 21. And while it won’t be a total eclipse above New York, the Hudson Valley will get a spectacular show that afternoon as most of the sun is covered by the moon.
Look at the Delta Aquarids meteor shower as the warm-up act for the Perseids. The latter show is so reliable and ooh-and-ahh worthy that stargazers plan around it with camping excursions and treks to dark sky preserves.
NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke advises stargazers to allow about 30 minutes for their eyes to adjust to the dark and then settle in for a few hours during the Perseids meteor shower peak. Those who are patient will be rewarded, he said, noting that at a rate of 150 meteors per hour, stargazers should see about two or three a minutes — some faint trails of light, others generating fireballs. (SIGN UP: Get daily newsletter, news alerts and updates. Download the for iPhone and iPad.)
The earlier show produces about 20 meteors an hour at its peak and is regarded as an average meteor shower. The moon will have set by the time they tune up, leaving skies dark for the late-night and early-morning , according to seasky.org.
The , the main act, is good for up to 150 meteors an hour, according to space.com. This year, a waning gibbous moon — one that appears less than half full but is more than half-lighted — could block out some of the fainter meteors, but the Perseids are so bright that you should still plan on catching the show. The meteors radiate from the constellation Perseus, but you’ll be able to see them no matter where you’re looking in the sky.
The Perseids’ Aug. 12 peak comes when Earth passes through the densest, dustiest area of the wide path of Comet Swift-Tuttle — about 16 miles wide at its nucleus, according to space.com. The last time it passed near Earth was during its orbit of the sun in 1992, something that won’t happen again until 2126. The comet itself is a rare occurrence, but the annual meteor shower is a brilliant reminder of it.
Meteors are pieces of comet debris that heat up as they enter the atmosphere then burn in a bright burst of light that streaks across the sky at up to 37 miles per second, according to space.com. Most of the Perseids meteors are so small — they’re about the — that they’ll never become “meteorites” that fall to the Earth.
— Story by Patch Editor
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images News/Getty Images
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Originally published July 31, 2017.