As you may know, it’s going to be a wonderful weekend with sunshine and comfortably warm temperatures. Not only will the days be bright, but the nights are going to be clear and that is important for an annual event.
We are coming up on the peak of the Perseid meteor shower, which actually started kicking up back in the middle of July and will stay relatively active through nearly all of August. This is an event that lasts a really long time, but if you look at a bell curve of when it peaks you will find the greatest rate of meteors Sunday night into early Monday morning and Monday night into early Tuesday morning.
The number of meteors can range from between 50 and 75 per hour. In order to see that number you’ll need to get into the countryside where skies are darkest, but even in Boston the brightest meteors can shine through city lights. Be sure to also stop looking at your cell phone so your eyes can adjust.
We are fortunate this year that we will have clear skies Sunday night. The meteor rate tends to increase after midnight and peaks until just before the first light shows up on the eastern horizon.
In this simulated satellite for Sunday night there are very few clouds forecast (COD Weather)
But this year stargazers will have to deal with the moon.
It will become full on Thursday and in its current waxing gibbous phase there will be light overshadowing some percentage of the meteors most of the night.
So, instead of staying up late, it’s probably better to get up early this year. This is because the moon will set around 4 a.m and dawn doesn’t break till just before 4:30 a.m., giving us roughly 30 minutes of totally dark skies to view the meteors.
When I was a camp counselor I used to take my kids to an open ball field and just lay down on some blankets with plenty of bug spray. We would all look for meteors and other objects like moving satellites.
Not only is it fun to hunt for the shooting stars, a lot of people just don’t have a chance to view a dark sky anymore. It’s worth the effort.
The meteors are tiny specks of dust from the comet Swift-Tuttle, which comes close to Earth every year at this time. The meteoros appear to radiate from the constellation Perseus, hence the reason we call it the Perseid meteor shower.