Perseid meteor shower peaks tonight

The Perseids are returning to a sky near you.

Though the Perseids actually peak around 1 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 12, according to Space.com, the night before and after will have good rates. Meteor experts say the show will be slightly better in the predawn hours of Saturday. 

The Perseid meteor shower lights up the sky every year when Earth passes through the cloud of debris left by the Comet Swift-Tuttle. Like last year, scientists are expecting enhanced rates of meteors with this shower.

But will it be the brightest meteor shower in recorded human history? Nope, not even close, according to NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke.

Experts would give that distinction to the 1833 Leonids, which had rates of tens of thousands of meteors per hour – 20 to 30 meteors per second – Cooke said.

According to multiple accounts, the sky was so full of shooting stars, people thought the world was coming to an end. The event affected the people who witnessed it so immensely, it may have sparked the start of citizen science, where analysts use crowdsourcing to gather observations.

Conversely, experts are expecting rates of about 150 meteors per hour for the Perseids this year. It’s a higher rate than normal for the Perseids, but Cooke said the increased number of meteors will be canceled out by the bright moon.

The peak time for the shower is expected on the nights of Aug. 11 and 12, when the moon will be about three-quarters full. Cooke said the light of the moon will wash out the fainter Perseids.

That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the celestial event. Unlike with the upcoming eclipse, you won’t need special equipment to view the meteor shower. All you need is a dark sky and a little time to allow your eyes to adjust.

Cooke said you should be able to see a meteor every couple of minutes.

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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