Dark moonless nights for the summer Perseid Meteor Shower!

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What's Up for August? The summer Perseids are here!

Hello and welcome. I'm Jane Houston Jones from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The Perseid meteor shower is the best of the year. It peaks on a moonless summer night -from 4 pm on the 12th until 4 am on the 13th Eastern Daylight Time. Because the new moon falls near the peak night, the days before and after the peak will also provide nice, dark skies. Your best window of observation is from a few hours after twilight until dawn, on the days surrounding the peak.

Unlike most meteor showers, which have a short peak of high meteor rates, the Perseids have a very broad peak, as Earth takes more than three weeks to plow through the wide trail of cometary dust from comet Swift-Tuttle.

The Perseids appear to radiate from the constellation Perseus, visible in the northern sky soon after sunset this time of year. Observers in mid-northern latitudes will have the best views. You should be able to see some meteors from July 17 to August 24th, with the rates increasing during the weeks before August 12 and decreasing after the 13th. Observers should be able to see between 60 and 70 per hour at the peak. Remember, you don't have to look directly at the constellation to see them. You can look anywhere you want to-even directly overhead.

Meteor showers like the Perseids are caused by streams of meteoroids hitting Earth's atmosphere. The particles were once part of their parent comet-or, in some cases, from an asteroid.

The parade of planets Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars--and the Milky Way continue to grace the evening sky, keeping you and the mosquitoes company while you hunt for meteors. Next month we'll take a late summer stroll through the Milky Way. No telescopes or binoculars needed!

You can catch up on all of NASA's current-and future-missions at www.nasa.gov

That's all for this month. I'm Jane Houston Jones.

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