NASA’s tips for best viewing of the Perseid meteor shower
This week could bring some of the best nights this summer to see shooting stars, because three meteor showers will be overlapping.
Both the alpha Capricornids and the delta Aquarids — minor summer meteor showers — are just past their peak but remain active, according to astronomical organizations such as EarthSky.org, Space.com, Sky & Telescope and the American Meteor Society.
Meanwhile, the Perseid meteors — usually the summer’s main sky-watching event — have begun arriving and will build toward a peak the night of Aug. 12-13.
Skies will be mostly clear Saturday through Monday, according to the National Weather Service.
What they are
▪ Most of the meteors are the size of a grain of sand and hurtle through the Earth’s atmosphere at a speed of 25 miles per second.
▪ They’re literally “space dust” that crosses the Earth’s orbit, particles from the tails of comets or from comets and asteroids that broke apart.
▪ Meteor showers usually are named for the constellations where they originate: Capricorn, Aquarius and Perseus.
When to look
▪ Best time to see meteors is after midnight and before the first light of dawn.
▪ Both the delta Aquarid and the alpha Capricornid showers peaked Monday night/Tuesday morning but they will remain visible at the rate of about five an hour or more through mid-August.
▪ Perseids peak the night of Aug. 12-13 with about 60 meteors per hour but there’s a nearly full moon and its light will make it hard to see all but the brightest meteors this year.
▪ Perseids are arriving now and the new moon Wednesday night, Aug. 7, offers a darkened sky that’s perfect for viewing meteors through next week.
Where to look
▪ Capricornids originate from a point low in the southern sky. Skywatchers might see up to five per hour.
▪ Aquarids also come from the south, and can produce about 20 per hour.
▪ To see Perseids, look high in the northeast. Average is about 60 meteors per hour at the peak.
How to look
▪ Find a spot away from bright city lights with a good view of the horizon — such as at the beach or on a mountaintop.
▪ Sit in a reclining chair or lie on the ground.