This is the weekend in which the best (well, certainly the most popular) meteor shower of the year reaches it’s peak. A couple of other meteor showers, such as the Geminids in December may have a somewhat higher number of visible meteors but the Perseids occur in August, which features nice, warm nights to sit outside and enjoy the show.
What’s a meteor?
A meteor is a big space rock that has been shed by a comet. Comets leave behind a trail of debris that Earth occasionally passes through. As these rocks enter our atmosphere, they “burn” up, creating a bright streak of glowing hot air.
Where to look?
You can see a meteor anywhere in the sky but the “tails” of the meteors all seem to come from about the same spot. or “radiant”. Meteor showers are named after the constellation that is home to their radiant. The Perseids come from the constellation Perseus, which will be in the northeast sky for much of the night.
When to look?
You can spot some meteors in the evening after it gets completely dark but the most numerous will be after midnight.
What to expect
Meteor showers tend to be somewhat disappointing for those who 1) don’t stay up late enough 2) don’t get to a dark enough spot 3) aren’t patient enough to allow their eyes to adjust to the darkness. Be patient. It will be possible to see a meteor every minute if you are in a good dark spot and….
Will the weather cooperate?
This is the big question. The trends for the weekend have been good but the forecast is still a bit tricky. On average, the most accurate computer model in our arsenal is the European. It has a significantly cloudier forecast for both Saturday and Sunday night than it’s American counterparts, the NAM and GFS.
Saturday night European:
Saturday night NAM:
Sunday night European:
Sunday night GFS:
So, we will hope the European model is being too pessimistic!