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Look to the Night Sky: 2018 Perseid Meteor Shower

August 06, 2018

Whether you are an experienced stargazer or night sky novice, make sure you check out this year’s Perseid meteor shower.  Always one of the best summertime meteor showers, the Perseids are expected to really show their stuff this year. NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke explains why. “The moon will be near new moon, it will be crescent, which means it will set before the Perseid show gets underway after midnight,” Dr. Cooke told Space.com. Not much moonlight means a better chance of seeing approximately 60-70 meteors an hour streak through the dark sky. Luckily, the Perseids will peak this weekend August 10-13; great timing for gathering with other amateur astronomers for late night viewing. And this show doesn’t cost a thing!

Just what makes this meteor shower so spectacular?  The Perseid meteors are dust and debris from the tail of the enormous Comet Swift-Tuttle. This comet has been orbiting for thousands of years. Humans have been writing about it since 69 B.C.E.! We see the Perseids annually when the Earth passes close to the center of the comet’s debris cloud. The closer to the center, the better the show. The Comet Swift-Tuttle debris stream is wide, so the Perseid shower can last many days. These meteors are especially fast, some up to 132,000 mph. The faster the meteor, the brighter!

Here are a few tips to maximize your viewing experience:

  • Cross your fingers the weather cooperates and delivers clear skies!
  • Try to find a viewing spot with as little light pollution as possible.
  • Bring a comfy blanket to lie on while you look up at the sky.
  • It’s always good to have water or other refreshments.
  • Don’t rush! It takes 20-30 minutes for your eyes to completely adjust to the dark.
  • If you must use a light source, make sure it is red LED light.
  • Look for the meteors to originate in the northwest portion of the sky, near the constellation Perseus.

For a closer look at the night sky and all things outer space, check out the CSK lab box, Cosmic Cookie Dough

 




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