August 10, 2019|2:58pm
Your weekend highlights may include stumbling out of a bar early Sunday morning, but — depending on your location — if you time your exit right, you can see a real thrill in the sky.
The annual Perseid meteor showeris anticipated to peakearly next week, from Aug. 11 to Aug. 13, according to NASA. It is visible to anyone in the Northern Hemisphere — as long as the sky and surroundings are dark enough. But the best time to view the display will come in the wee hours of Sunday, Aug. 11.
Read on for more tips on how to see it.
What is the Perseid meteor shower?
The Perseid meteor shower is a stellar galactic display caused by the Earth passing through the debris of the passing Swift-Tuttle comet. As the comet passes each August, its debris enters the Earth’s atmosphere at about 133,000 miles per hour, resulting in brilliant flashes across the sky.According to Vox, the Perseids get their name by appearing to radiate from the constellation Perseus. (Perseus, the son of Zeus, is a mythical Greek hero known for beheading the gorgon Medusa.)
When is the Perseid meteor shower and when does it peak?
Generally, every year, some meteors from the Perseids are visible from the middle of July to late August. This year, the peak — or when meteor rates hit more than 60 per hour — comes on the night between Aug. 12 and Aug. 13. However, in 2019 in particular, the brightness of a full moon on those dates will obstruct visibility, taking the peak rate of more than 60 per hour down to 15 to 20 per hour. That means the best time to see them, according to NASA, will be the early morning hours of Sunday, Aug. 11. On the 11th, the moon will set around 3 a.m., which means roughly an hour of dark sky to see the meteors before pre-dawn or the sun begins to rise. But the following night, on Monday, Aug. 12, there will just be a few minutes of dark sky between the moon setting and the sun starting to rise.
Where are the best places to see it?
In and around New York City, wherethe moon will setaround 2:19 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 11, light pollution will make it tough to see the shower’s full glory. But that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. Interested viewers can head torooftops and clearings with a good view of the skydirectly overhead. (Think Central Park or the Hudson River shoreline.) The weather looks sunny this weekend, which hopefully means clear skies for better visibility.
If you’re not in New York City, just head to any place that’s away from bright lights, lie down on your back and look up at the sky. The meteors can be seen in all directions, NASA says, so there isn’t a need to look in any one direction. And all you need are your eyes; binoculars and telescopes are not recommended. But you do have to give your eyes about a half-hour to adjust to the dark in any setting.
Worst case scenario: Presuming the weather cooperates for NASA in Huntsville, Alabama, there will be a live broadcast of the shower on itsMeteor Shower Facebook pagearound 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Monday, Aug. 12.
How does the Perseid meteor shower compare to other meteor showers?
The Perseid shower stands out as one of the best meteor showers of the year, not only for the number of visible flashes during peak, but also for the summer temperatures that make outdoor viewing more pleasant. The Geminid meteor shower, in December, also delivers bright flashes that move fast through the sky. But viewing them in the pre-dawn hours requires Northern Hemisphere viewers bundle up to stay warm.