Each August the Perseids meteor shower makes its appearance. In 2010 the annual cosmic illumination show appears on Wednesday, August 11 and will maintain the stage until the predawn hours of Friday, August 13.
While some years may have other celestial conditions that may hinder viewing, 2010 is expected to be a good year to see Perseids’ annual appearance, especially for those individuals who live in or are vacationing in areas away from bright city lights. Those with an ability to sky watch with darkened skies as their backdrop are likely going to see a grand showing from Perseids this year.
Star gazers who want to get the best glimpse of Perseids should begin to keep watch during the late night hours of Wednesday, although it is said pre-dawn hours are often the best times to have an optimal view for Perseids and other celestial events.
According to Space.com “As Earth rotates, the side facing the direction of its orbit around the Sun tends to scoop up more space debris. This part of the sky is directly overhead at dawn. For this reason, the Perseids and other meteor showers (and also random shooting stars in general) are usually best viewed in the predawn hours.”
Perseids is considered by many to be one of the best meteor shower appearances of the year. It is common for Perseids to cover large portions of the night skies and peak 50 or more meteors in an hour. These showers are fast and travel roughly at 133,200 miles per hour.
The debris creating the meteor showers originate from the comet Swift-Tuttle which was discovered back in 1862 by Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle. The comet was not seen again until 1992 which leads astronomers believe the comet takes approximately 130 years to circle the sun. At this time astronomer Brian Marsden calculated someday that Swift-Tuttle might hit earth, although if this hit or more likely, near miss occurs, it would not be until the year 3044.
An interesting fact to note is this comet’s orbit has been tracked back approximately 2,000 years. Space.com lists in their “Top 10 Perseid Meteor Shower Facts” that Swift-Tuttle “is now thought to be the same comet that was observed in 188 AD and possibly even as early as 69 BC.”
In August the Earth passes nearby to Swift-Tuttle’s orbit which makes this time of year the ideal time for us to see Perseids. As Swift-Tuttle passes through space the comet leaves behind debris which create the Perseids showers. What we see as streaks of light in the skies this year will actually be debris left from Swift-Tuttle comet’s previous visit.
Meteorologist Joe Rao says “The Moon, whose bright light almost totally wrecked last year’s shower, will have zero impact this year; unlike last year when it was just a few days past full, this year it will be new on Monday, Aug. 9, meaning that there will be absolutely no interference from it at all” (Fox.com). Reportedly approximately 8 p.m. EST Thursday is when the Earth will hit the densest part of the Perseid stream.
So for those who want to see what is likely going to be a spectacular show, get ready, as August 11 is the season opener, but Thursday, August 12 into Friday, August 13 will be the peak event. Telescopes are optional and to see Perseids, not even necessary; many report laying down and looking up with the naked eye provides the best view. Get those sleeping backs, coffee, munchies, or whatever whets your appetite and lay back and enjoy the performance.