The wait is over and astronomers are gearing up for one of the highest-rated meteor showers of the year, but clouds could disrupt the event for about a third of the United States.
The Perseid meteor shower will peak from Tuesday evening through early Wednesday morning, a reliable meteor shower that puts on a show year after year.
“The Perseids are the most popular meteor showers as they peak on warm August nights as seen from the northern hemisphere,” the American Meteor Society (AMS) explained on its website.
This year, viewers can expect to see between 50 and 75 meteors per hour under dark skies, or on average about one meteor per minute.
“The Geminid meteor shower in December produces roughly the same number of meteors. The two showers produce about four times as many as any other rain during the year,” said Dave Samuhel, AccuWeather blogger. Astronomy.
A big difference between the Perseids and the Geminids is time. August generally presents a more comfortable stargazing time for the Perseids compared to the cold and often cloudy conditions of December around the Geminid summit.
As with every meteor shower, the best time to look is when the shower’s radiation point is highest in the sky. The number of visible meteors will gradually increase as the radiating point moves higher in the sky.
“They are called Perseids because the radiant (the area of the sky where meteors seem to be coming from) is located near the prominent constellation Perseus,” AMS explained.
Contrary to popular belief, sky watchers do not need to look at the radiating point to see the meteor shower – the shooting stars will be visible in all areas of the sky.
The Perseid radiating point will rise above the horizon around 11 p.m. local time, and will continue to rise higher in the sky as the night progresses. However, the moon is expected to rise around 1 a.m. local time and will cause natural light pollution, making it harder to see some of the fainter meteors.
Because of this, the best window to see this year’s Perseid meteor shower is between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. local time.
“Even though the Perseids will be most active after midnight, I encourage people to start watching after it gets dark at night,” Samuhel said. “You will be more likely to see a bright, long-lasting meteor flying across much of the sky during the evening.”
Spectators who stay outside after 1 a.m. to watch the celestial light show should look at the darkest part of the sky, away from the moon.
CLICK HERE FOR THE FREE ACCUWEATHER APP
This year, a majority of the western and central United States will have cloudless conditions for Perseid Peak. Favorable weather conditions are also forecast for much of western Canada and the Canadian Prairies.
People east of the Mississippi River may have clouds to contend with, especially across the Ohio Valley to the Mid-Atlantic Coast.
Other areas, such as the Deep South, northern New England, and the St. Lawrence River Valley, will experience breaks in the clouds, which could allow a few shooting stars to be spotted throughout the night.
Meteors will continue to be visible in the nights after the peak, so those in the cloud Tuesday night should plan for a starry night later in the week when weather conditions improve. However, the number of visible meteors will gradually decrease each night.
In addition to needing a clear day, a little patience is also needed to observe the Perseids.
“Spend a good hour doing nothing other than looking for meteors,” Samuhel said. “If you only look for a few minutes, you might not see any.”
It is important not to look at any light source while searching for shooting stars, including cell phone screens.
“Make yourself comfortable. Lie down on a lounge chair or blanket on the grass. Don’t sit on a normal chair and look up, your neck will tire quickly,” Samuhel says.
After the Perseids have passed, the next moderate meteor shower will not occur until mid-October with the peak of the Orionids.
Check back regularly to AccuWeather.com and stay tuned AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier, and Verizon Fios.