Perseids 2020: Dependable shower, dubious weather

StephensAstro —  August 8, 2020 — Leave a comment

A fireball meteor streaks across the sky north of Hiram at 3:38 AM, August 8, 2020. The large white “blob” in this image is the waning Gibbous Moon. Credit: NASA All-Sky Fireball Network/Hiram College Camera

It’s Perseids season!

The annual Perseid Meteor Shower peaks from August 11 to 13, the event many consider to be the best meteor shower of the year, thanks to frequent meteors streaking across the sky and comfortable nighttime temperatures. This year, skywatchers can expect to see between 50 and 75 meteors an hour under dark skies, or about one meteor every minute. The meteors are bits of material strewn across Earth’s path in space by Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. The bits of dust and grit glow brightly as they burn up while entering Earth’s atmosphere at about 37 miles per second.

This year, for those who venture out before midnight on the peak date(s), Earth’s Moon won’t interfere. Dedicated meteor spotters — those who observe in the wee hours between midnight and dawn — may curse as Moon rises and brightens the sky, making faint meteors harder to see. There is another problem, however, much closer to home: the weather.

 

2020 Perseids Viewing Forecast for the continental United States. Credit: Accuweather

 

The weather forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Of course.

Do not abandon hope.

The nights preceding and following the shower’s peak see occasional meteors from the Perseid and Alpha Capricornid showers and include fireballs (very bright meteors) from both. When the sky’s clear, go out and enjoy the mild nights that may include “shooting stars.” After twilight fades, find a dark spot, spread out a blanket, or untangle that deck lounge chair, apply a little mosquito repellent and look up. As your eyes grow used to the dark you’ll see more and more stars, planets Jupiter and Saturn gracing the southern sky, and with decently dark sky, spy the soft clouds of our own Milky Way galaxy. You’ll probably see a satellite or two, too.

 

Our Night Sky: August 11, 2020, 11:59 PM. Note: The bright dot that appears to be labeled Pluto is actually Jupiter! Pluto is the tiny purple speck next to it and you won’t be able to see Pluto. Credit: SkySafari — CLICK FOR FULL-SIZE IMAGE

 

StephensAstro

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Since spring, 2006 Director of Stephens Memorial Observatory

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