Alexandra Cranford / WWL Eyewitness News Forecast Team
This weekend could be your best chance of the year to spot shooting stars. The Perseid meteor shower peaks Saturday night through Monday night.
Here’s everything you need to know before you go gazing:
- The Perseid meteor shower peaks each year in the second week of August. It spawns up to 50 to 100 meteors per hour.
- The Perseids are usually the best shooting star show of the year. The shower is known for showcasing bright and fast meteors that can leave distinct trails through the sky.
- The early morning hours of this Sunday, Monday and Tuesday are your best bet for viewing. About 3am to 6am is the best time to look.
- You can also catch the meteors earlier in the night, but they will get more frequent toward midnight… and then especially toward dawn.
- You can start looking for some early meteors each night this week. A few meteors will still be visible next week too. The shower typically builds to a maximum, which happens this weekend.
Why it's such a good show:
- This shower combines with the tail end of another weaker shower, the Delta Aquarids, which peaks in late July.
- The moon won’t be super bright, so it won’t interfere too much with visibility. It’ll be about 15 percent to 30 percent full.
Why it happens:
- The earth will move into the orbit of a comet called Swift-Tuttle. When this comet moves near the sun, pieces of it melt away. Later, the earth slides through the comet's debris trail. Those bits and pieces of the comet crash into our atmosphere and burn up. Each time a comet particle burns up, we see a spectacular shooting star.
How to view:
- A dark, open sky is best, away from city lights.
- Meteors come in waves with plenty of breaks, so give yourself at least an hour to watch.
- Remember your eyes take about 20 minutes to really adjust to the darkness.
- No special equipment is needed. Just go perch yourself somewhere away from city lights with a good view of the sky.
Good to know:
- The meteors will radiate out from the constellation Perseus (hence the name). Perseus is near the constellation Cassiopeia, if you happen to be familiar with that one. But don't worry - you don’t have to look in a specific direction with this shower. The meteors will appear pretty much all over the sky.
- Meteor showers are known for being erratic, so don’t get upset if you have a hard time glimpsing them. It makes sense if you think about it – it all depends on how much comet debris the earth flies through at a given time, which certainly isn’t uniform. So give yourself lots of time for viewing - and enjoy!