The Perseid meteor shower, widely watched on the East End, will peak tonight and tomorrow, August 12–13. Beloved as one of the most visible showers of the year, the Perseids typically peak in mid August, with the best viewing times right before dawn.
This annual summer shower is hotly anticipated by local stargazers, thanks to its consistent shooting stars and our fairly balmy evening temperature this time of year. Some might even enjoy a swim (at your own risk) under the falling stars.
Viewers of tonight’s shower can expect some 100 shooting stars per hour at its peak, which will occur around 2 a.m., and they will continue for the next few days. NASA notes on their website that this year, the Perseid shower coincides with our August “supermoon,” the biggest and brightest full moon of the year, and the moonlight could dampen all but the brightest meteors. However, the space organization also suggests “the outcome could be beautiful.”
Despite the early morning peak, EarthSky.org says hopeful stargazers shouldn’t discount early evening viewing. Generally, the site explains, the Perseid meteors are few at nightfall and early evening, but this is also the time to catch a rare and memorable “earthgrazer,” which is described as “a looooong, slow, colorful meteor traveling horizontally across the evening sky.” And they’re only visible in the early evening, when the shower’s radiant point is closer to the horizon.
NASA says the Perseid meteor shower comes as a result of the huge Comet Swift Tuttle, which leaves a trail of small debris every 133 years when it passes through the inner solar system. As Earth passes through these debris, “specks of comet-stuff” collide with our atmosphere at 140,000 mph and disappear in flashes of light. The meteors are called Perseids because they originate out of the Perseus constellation. In Greek mythology, Perseids is the word to describe sons of Perseus.
Watch NASA’s ScienceCast video below to preview the competition between the supermoon of August and the 2014 Perseid meteor shower.