It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a shooting star! If you look up at the night sky this week, you may see a Perseid meteor. Every year, around mid-August, the Earth passes through the debris field of Comet Swift-Tuttle. The result: a summer night light show! We call this meteor shower “The Perseids” because the point the meteors start at (the radiant) is located in the constellation Perseus.
Comet Swift-Tuttle orbits around the sun once every 133 years. The last time Swift-Tuttle’s orbit was near the sun was in 1992 and will return in 2125. While the comet is no where near Earth, our planet passes through its debris trail, allowing some left over dust and rock to enter our atmosphere. The dust and rock encounters air friction, causing the material to burn up, giving off that commonly-known bright streak appearance.
Meteor Shower Peak and The Forecast
This year’s Perseid Meteor shower is expected to peak on the night of Tuesday, August 11 and last into the morning of Wednesday, August 12. The best time to view the meteors will be Tuesday night before the moonrise at 12:30 A.M.
Unfortunately, it does not look like Mother Nature will not be very cooperative in Northwest Arkansas this year. The ability to see the meteors will depend on two big factors.
- Showers and thunderstorms are expected to fire up during the afternoon Tuesday. This will not only bring rain the region, but cloud cover as well. Latest model trends keep the clouds around through most of the night.
- The Last Quarter moon! Even if the cloud cover dissipates in time, we will still have to deal with the moon’s light. Even though the meteors will be bright, the moon may prevent you from observing the smaller ones, limiting the number of meteors you will see.
Summary and Tips
While the conditions are not the best for viewing, here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Peak will be Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.
- While the meteors will originate from the northeast, do not look directly at the radiant! Instead, look to the north as the tails will be longer and easier to see.
- Cloud cover and light pollution from the moon will greatly influence the number of meteors we will see.
- Lastly, be sure to enjoy this mid-August tradition if you get the chance!