TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—The Perseid meteor shower will peak in both visibility and frequency during the night of Aug. 12-13. According to a report from Space.com, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada says the shower will be at its strongest around 4 a.m. that night, where viewers could potentially see up to 60 meteors per hour.
This year, the peak is best visible in the eastern portions of North America, including Tompkins County.
Unlike last year — in which moonlight was so intense that the Perseid shower was almost invisible — the moon will be just eight percent illuminated and only three days from a new moon. This will remove much of the light pollution from the sky. However, the current Accuweather forecast predicts significant cloud cover on the night of Aug. 12 in Ithaca, potentially limiting the chances of seeing the shower.
What is the Perseid shower?
The Perseid shower occurs every year, peaking in early- to mid-August as the Earth passes through the Perseid meteoroid stream. Along with December’s Geminids, it is one of the two most reliably visible and one of the strongest meteor showers every year.
Named because it appears to come from a patch of sky within the Perseus constellation, the Perseid shower is the visible effect of small debris — no larger than a pebble — from the comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle hitting the Earth’s atmosphere at high speeds and burning up, causing trails of electrified, ionized air to streak through the sky.
How to watch
If the skies are clear, then all locals have to do to view the shower is to find a dark space that has an expansive view of the sky, and wait. Any moonlight, obstructions or light pollution will decrease the visibility of the meteors. Pack some bug repellent and some layers or a sleeping bag as well, as temperatures on either night could dip to around 60 degrees.
Jonathan Mong is a reporter from The Cornell Daily Sun working on The Sun’s summer fellowship at The Ithaca Voice.