Perseid Meteor Shower 2018

Perseid meteor, 2015-08-13

Tonight (August 12–13, 2018 UTC) the Perseid meteor shower will peak.  This meteor shower occurs every year around August 12th as the Earth passes through the orbit of debris from comet Swift-Tuttle.  This is one of the most reliable and intense meteor showers and, in ideal conditions (clear, dark sky and dark-adapted eyes) you may see a meteor a minute.  (As with everything, Pareto is on the job—there are many more dim meteors than bright ones.)

This year, the Moon will not interfere with observation, so there should be a good show.  Here is information about observing the Perseids.

It couldn’t be easier.  Any time after around 23:00 local time (the later the better, as the “radiant”—the point in the sky from which the meteors appear to come—rises higher in the sky) go out to a place as far as you can find away from street lights or other interference and look up toward the northeast.  Allow time for your eyes to dark-adapt.  Once you can see the Milky Way, you should be able to see the dimmer meteors.

Sometimes you’ll be lucky and see a bright fireball which leaves a persistent trail that lasts for several seconds.  Don’t expect this, however: the last one I saw was in 2015, as pictured above.

I’ll not be watching for Perseids tonight.  After a perfectly clear day, around the end of astronomical twilight clouds rolled in and completely obscured the sky.  The peak of the Perseids is broad, however, so if it’s clear I’ll try to-morrow.

If you have clear skies tonight, go out and have a look.  You need no equipment other than the Mark I eyeball and, if in skeeter country, a splash of DEET.

Clear skies!

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