Space and astronomy news and information for the American Southwest. Coverage includes Vandenberg AFB rocket and missile launches.

Active Meteor Shower Peaks Next Week

No equipment is required to see one of the year’s best displays of shooting stars when the Perseid meteor shower peaks August 12.

By Matt Quandt, Astronomy Magazine

2008 August 5

WAUKESHA, Wis. - Campers, early commuters, and casual sky observers can watch shooting stars in the predawn sky August 12 when one of the year’s best meteor showers peaks. Perseid meteors will rain down before sunrise. Viewers can expect to see 60 to 90 meteors per hour under a dark sky after the Moon sets in the early morning.

“This is a great event for the whole family,” says Astronomy magazine Senior Editor Michael Bakich. “Viewing a meteor shower doesn’t require any equipment, the event is active during a long period of time, and it happens in the summer.”

The best time to spot the meteor sky show is around 1:30 a.m. local daylight time the day of the peak. If the forecast calls for cloudy skies August 12, look for a decent show a day or two before and after.

Bright, fast meteors, many leaving smoke trails visible for several seconds, characterize the Perseid meteor shower. The Perseids result when Earth runs into debris ejected by Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle.

A dark sky provides the best conditions for viewing the shower. “Dark” skies are at least 40 miles away from light-polluted cities. This shower is best seen without a telescope or binoculars, because eyes alone provide the largest field of view.

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