I didn’t realize that the Perseid Meteor Shower was an annual occurrence. A predictable one. I hadn’t really researched it before today. I can remember living in the country and bringing the kids out in the middle of the night. We put sleeping bags in the back of the truck, and waited. And waited. Yes, we saw a few, unfortunately not anything like the 60-100 per hour that we had been promised. And this was even out where there were very few city lights to pollute the viewing. The brightness of the moon, the cloud cover, your location on the earth all have an influence on the number you’ll see.
But evidently, every August, the Earth passes through a cloud of debris from a comet called the Swift-Tuttle. And when these bits of rock from the comet’s orbit hit Earth’s atmosphere, they’ll blaze up and burn out – for all of us to witness!
If you’re looking for more information, The Top 10 Perseid Meteor Shower Facts from Space.com, is a good place to look. They say this:
If you don’t see any meteors at first, be patient. This is a meteor shower, not a meteor storm. There will be a lot more meteors than you would see on a normal night, but they will still only come at random intervals, perhaps 20 or 30 in an hour. When you do see a meteor, it will likely be very fast and at the edge of your field of vision. You may even doubt that what you saw was real. But, when you do see something, watch that area more closely, as two or three meteors often come in groups down the same track.
Look northeast after sunset in the direction of the Perseus constellation. Best viewing is said to be tonight around midnight, but people have been seeing these “falling stars” all week long. USAToday reports that if you wait until just before dawn, you can watch them make a nice diagonal line in the Eastern sky. Remember that they’ll be quick!
NASA astronomers will be up to provide a live chat for anyone who’d like to know what they’re seeing at Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. Log in here, between 11 p.m. on August 11th and 3 a.m. on August 12th to follow along or ask questions.
So grab a lawn chair and a blanket, and start looking toward the east. You won’t be alone!