The Perseid meteor shower, which is among one of the most famous and reliable meteor showers, will take place this weekend. This year’s Perseid meteor shower is expected to peak Friday night (Aug. 12) into the early morning of Saturday (Aug. 13).
While August’s full moon may interfere with its visibility, the best time to catch the Perseid meteor shower is during the predawn hours, especially Saturday morning. The meteor shower can be seen best under dark country skies.
“The best time to look is during the hours before dawn especially on Saturday morning, August 13th,” writes Tony Phillips, an astronomer who manages the Science News page at NASA’s website. “The full Moon will be relatively low, and the meteor rate should be peaking at that time.”
NASA is inviting the public to participate in a Perseids webchat and “all-night” meteor shower viewing party, hosted by the astronomer Bill Cooke and his team from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The webchat will begin at 11 p.m. EDT tonight (Aug. 12) and will last until 5 a.m. EDT Saturday morning. NASA’s webchat can be found here: http://www.nasa.gov/connect/chat/perseids_2011.html
The Perseid meteor shower occurs every year as planet Earth passes through a stream of dust and debris from the Comet Swift-Tuttle. As these specks of comet dust hit the top of Earth’s atmosphere at speeds reaching up to 140,000 miles per hour, they are heated and form bright meteor streaks that can be seen across the sky.
According to NASA and the International Meteor Organization, skywatchers around the world are currently counting more than a dozen Perseids each hour.
The streaks typically come in bunches with somewhat long wait times in between. It could take at least an hour or two of skywatching to catch a spectacular glimpse of this year’s meteor shower.