There cannot be any more perfect conditions to view the Northern Hemisphere’s most popular meteor event – the Perseid meteor shower – than right now.
The earth’s rotation around the sun is taking the planet through the peak of the Perseid meteor stream this week. With the clear skies involved with our latest hot weather spell, and with only a crescent moon illuminating the sky, conditions to watch the meteor action is as good as it gets.
The best time to watch the meteor shower is from about midnight until dawn. Given earth’s trajectory into the meteor stream, Perseid meteors will start to be seen hitting the planet’s atmosphere in the mid-to-late evening hours, peaking toward dawn.
No special equipment is needed. Just find a wide-open sky and even better, away from city lights. Your eyes may take as long as 20 minutes to adapt to the dark. In a dark sky, you may see up to 60 meteors per hour. Hang in there for at least an hour since the meteors tend to come in spurts interspersed with lulls. The northern sky is the best place to look.
Bring along a lounge chair with a blanket, or a lawn blanket. A warm drink in a thermos may be helpful to tag along as well.
The Perseid meteors are traced to the constellation Perseus, and hence the name of the meteor shower in honor of the constellation Perseus the Hero. In ancient Greek star lore, Perseus is the son of the god Zeus and the mortal Danaë. The Perseid shower commemorates the time when Zeus visited Danaë, the mother of Perseus, in a shower of gold. Quite the love story!
The stars in Perseus are light years away. There is no threat of the meteors reaching the earth’s surface. The meteors are quite small and burn up about 60 miles above earth’s surface, leaving wonderful streaks of light across the night sky.
So with the clear skies and little moonlight, enjoy the near perfect conditions to view the peak of the annual Perseid meteor shower this week. If you can’t view it this week, no worries. The meteor shower continues as it tapers off the rest of this month.