How to watch Perseid meteor shower this week, astronomer explains

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — Gerald McKeegan, an astronomer at the Chabot Space & Science Center, shares tips to catch the meteor shower happening on Wednesday:

One of the best annual meteor showers is the Perseid Meteor Shower, which peaks each year in mid-August. The Perseid Meteor Shower is caused by small particles left behind by the periodic comet Swift-Tuttle.

As the comet orbits around the Sun, it leaves behind a trail of dust, rocky grains and pebbles that form a particle stream also orbiting the Sun.  Each year, the Earth passes through the particle stream around mid-August. As those particles enter and burn up in Earth’s atmosphere, we experience a meteor shower.

This year, the Perseids will peak very early in the morning of Thursday, August 12. The best time to view the Perseids will be from 11:00 p.m. on the night of August 11 through 3:00 a.m. on the morning of August 12. 

The Moon will set early in the evening on the 11th, so we will have dark skies and potentially very good viewing conditions.  Under ideal conditions, observers may see up to 100 meteors per hour.

VIEWING TIPS

To view the Perseid Meteor Shower, try to find a clear-sky site that is far from city lights.  Forget the binoculars or telescope; meteors are best viewed with the unaided eye as they streak across large parts of the sky. 

Although the meteors will appear to come out of the east, from the constellation Perseus, the meteors can appear in any part of the sky. So it is best to find a comfortable position from which you can see large parts of the sky.  Lying on a blanket out in a grassy field on a mountain top would provide the optimum observing opportunity.

Chabot Space & Science Center is planning to host a meteor viewing night for a limited number of people, starting at 11:00 p.m. on the night of Wednesday, August 11.

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