Western Slope Skies 8/2/2013
The Perseid meteor shower sprinkles the night sky with shooting stars in August.
The meteors are bits of icy and rocky debris left behind by the Comet Swift-Tuttle,which was discovered in 1862. As Earth flies through the comet’s path, some bits of comet dust slam into the atmosphere at tens of thousands of miles per hour. They quickly vaporize, creating bright but brief streaks of light in the night sky.
Meteor showers are named for the constellation that coincides with a region in the sky, a spot known as the radiant. The Perseid meteor shower is so named because meteors appear to fall from the constellation of Perseus.
Annually, the Perseids are one of the best meteor showers to observe, producing up to 60 meteors per hour at their peak. They are famous for producing large numbers of bright meteors. The shower runs from July 17th to August 24th. It peaks this year on the nights of August 11th and August 12th. A crescent moon will set before midnight, leaving dark skies for what should be an excellent show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight.
Once you have settled at your observing spot, lie back or position yourself so the horizon appears at the edge of your peripheral vision, with the stars and sky filling your field of view. Meteors will soon grab your attention as they streak by.
Treat meteor watching like you would fireworks on the fourth of July. Pack comfortable chairs, bug spray, food and drinks, blankets, plus a red-filtered flashlight for reading maps and charts without ruining your night vision. Binoculars are not necessary. Your eyes will do just fine.