Annual meteor show
Raise your eyes in wonder at the most wonderful annual show from space.
As the EarthSky website explains,
As of August 8, 2012, the zenithal hourly rate (ZHR) of meteors visible in a dark sky has gone up to 21! That’s according to the International Meteor Organization. Clearly the Perseid meteor shower is rising to its peak, as it does every year at this time.
The peak mornings will be August 11, 12 and 13. August 12 might be the best morning. August 11 might be better than August 13. The moon is waning now. And many people are seeing meteors!
The Delta Aquarid and Perseid meteor showers combine in late July and August to create what most consider the best and most reliable meteor display for Northern Hemisphere observers. As always, after midnight is the best time for meteor-watching. The moon will be there, but getting thinner every morning. On the mornings (not the evenings) of August 11, 12 and 13, the moon will be a waning crescent, and the meteors should be flying at a rate closer to their peak of 50 or 60 meteors per hour. As an added treat – on August 11, 12 and 13 – the moon will be sweeping past the brightest planets Venus and Jupiter in the eastern predawn sky. You can’t ask for more!
Well you could ask for more and there is more on that very helpful website, ergo:
August 10/11, 11/12, and 12/13, 2012 Perseids
Meteors are typically best after midnight, but in 2012, with the moon rising into the predawn sky, you might want to watch for Perseid meteors in late evening as well. You can get moonrise times via this custom sunset calendar. As seen from around the world, the waning crescent moon will rise later on August 12 than on August 11, and, on the morning of August 13, although you’re slightly past the peak, the moon will rise later still.
On any of those mornings, moonlight shouldn’t be so overwhelming as to ruin the show. Plus the moon on those mornings will be near the bright planets Venus and Jupiter in the eastern predawn sky. It’ll be a beautiful early morning scene.
The Perseids are typically fast and bright meteors. They radiate from a point in the constellation Perseus the Hero. You don’t need to know Perseus to watch the shower because the meteors appear in all parts of the sky. The Perseids are considered by many people to be the year’s best shower, and often peak at 50 or more meteors per hour in a dark sky.
The Perseids tend to strengthen in number as late night deepens into midnight, and typically produce the most meteors in the wee hours before dawn. These meteors are often bright and frequently leave persistent trains.
Starting in late evening on the nights of August 10/11, 11/12 and 12/13, the Perseid meteors will streak across these short summer nights from late night until dawn, with only a little interference from the waning crescent moon. Plus the moon will be near the bright planets Venus and Jupiter in the eastern predawn sky.
Finally, here’s some fabulously helpful information on the NASA website:
NASA Chat: Stay ‘Up All Night’ to Watch the Perseids!Escape the heat of the waning days of summer for an evening of sky watching. The Perseid meteor shower peaks on the night of August 11 through the morning of August 12. Perseid rates can get as high as 100 per hour, with many fireballs visible in the night sky. A waning crescent moon will interfere slightly with this year’s show, but viewing should definitely be worth a look!
On the night of Aug. 11-12, astronomer Bill Cooke and his team from the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center will answer your questions about the 2012 Perseid meteor shower via an “Up All Night” live chat. To join the chat, simply return to this page and log in. The chat experts will be available to answer questions between the hours of 11 p.m. – 3 a.m. EDT, beginning the evening of Aug. 11 and continuing into the morning of Aug. 12.
Watch the Perseids! Live Video/Audio Feed
On the night of Aug. 11, a live video/audio feed of the Perseid shower will be embedded below (go to here). The camera is mounted at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. During daylight, you’ll see a dark gray box — the camera is light-activated and will turn on at dusk. At night you’ll see white points, or stars, on a black background.
About the Perseids
The Perseids have been observed for at least 2,000 years and are associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the sun once every 133 years. Each year in August, the Earth passes through a cloud of the comet’s debris. These bits of ice and dust — most over 1,000 years old — burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere to create one of the best meteor showers of the year. The Perseids can be seen all over the sky, but the best viewing opportunities will be across the northern hemisphere. Those with sharp eyes will see that the meteors radiate from the direction of the constellation Perseus.