This Year’s Shower Expected to Hit Peak Meteors Per Hour Perseid Meteor Shower

Written by: Donna Lethal

Photo of Perseid by Andrew-Stawarz on Flikr

With the annual Perseid meteor shower beginning visibility this week, interest – propelled by social media and live streaming – has taken meteor watching to a worldwide sharing event. Nasa says this year will be the best yet, but don’t fret, there is live streaming on Slooh!  Perseid Meteor Shower

As one of the most popular annual meteor showers, Perseid viewing can sometimes deliver (if you’re counting) over 100 meteors per hour at their peak. Those streaks across the sky are dust burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere as it passes through the streams from 109P/Swift-Tuttle’s comet. Perseid Meteor Shower

Despite the anticipation for this year’s Perseids, which are slated for peak viewing between August 11 and 12, there’s one big problem: the light pollution in Southern California, which as star-watchers know.

I spoke to Griffith Observatory’s Astronomical Observer, Tony Cook, about Perseid viewing this year. Tony’s a member of the production team in charge of telescopes and observing activities in addition to keeping their Sky Report.

Photo by John-Fowler on Flikr

Question: What’s going to impact our viewing this year? Perseid

Tony Cook: The moon will set at 1:08 a.m. California is ideally placed to see the traditional one per minute maximum just before dawn starts at 4:40 a.m. Several meteor experts, however, anticipate that streams of material from the source comet, 109P/Swift-Tuttle, may have been affected (perturbed) by the gravitation of Jupiter and this year may enhance meteor numbers several hours before the traditional maximum. This could favor observers Europe and eastern North America, but it could also mean that on the west coast it might be worth watching from 10 p.m. to dawn, in spite of three hours of moderately bright moonlight. No one really knows what to expect, but rates close to or exceeding 100 meteors per hour are possible, if not guaranteed.

Q: Were there any notable showers so far this year? How will the Perseid shower compare?

TC: The Perseids are the first major shower this year. Other strong showers this year will have to contend with bright moonlight. Perseid

Q: Do we miss the best meteor viewing by being in the city of Los Angeles?

TC: Because the sky of Los Angeles and its suburbs are bathed in the glow of millions of lights, between 70 percent and 90 percent of meteors will be hidden from view.

Q: Where are some of the best spots to see the meteor shower? Perseid

TC: You can improve your view by going to the local mountains, although the best views will be from places like Red Rock Canyon, Joshua Tree, Death Valley, and locations within the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Q: Why does the Perseid meteor shower happen this time of year? Perseid

TC: The orbit of Earth and comet Swift-Tuttle meet at the point occupied by the Earth on August 11-12. The comet, fortunately, has not met the Earth at that point, but the dusty particles shed from the 26-mile-wide comet nucleus are spread along its orbit, and plunge into our atmosphere, creating the light show. Swift-Tuttle was seen in 1737, 1862 and 1992, and will be back in 2126, when it will safely pass about 15 million miles from us.