Fans of the year's most popular meteor shower, take heart. While this year's show has one strike against it, it may not be a total wash.
The Perseid meteor shower, which is at its most visible between midnight and dawn, may be obscured for New Yorkers on Saturday night by isolated thunderstorms.
Luckily the shower will continue into Sunday night. And though a crescent Moon will be rising at around 2:00 a.m., it won't be so close to the shower's point of origin overhead to seriously affect viewing.
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The shower's name comes from the constellation Perseus, which is the cosmic backdrop to where the meteors hit Earth's atmosphere. The meteorites themselves are particles left over from the tail of the Swift-Tuttle comet which orbits the Sun every 133 years according to NASA. Records of the shower go back about 2,000 years.
“The Perseids can be seen all over the sky, but the best viewing opportunities will be across the northern hemisphere,” according to a 2011 NASA release. “Those with sharp eyes will see that the meteors appear to radiate from the direction of the constellation Perseus.”
At its peak, the Perseids meteor shower could display up to 40 meteors per hour in the pre-dawn hours Sunday. The American Meteor Society recommends viewing this meteor shower between midnight and dawn Saturday and Sunday.
- Bring something comfortable to sit or lie on. Meteor showers take place overhead, last for hours, and individual ones go by quickly. You don't want to tire out your neck.
- Take a nap before going out. You don't want to prepare yourself for one of nature's most cosmic shows and then sleep through it.
- Get as far away from city and other artificial lights as possible. In the city, try to find a safe place that's isolated from ambient light. While you can't reduce the general brightness of the sky, you can still maximize your eyes' sensitivity.
- Be patient. It may take your eyes a few minutes to adjust to the light and see the meteors.
- You don’t need binoculars or a telescope – that will only limit the amount of sky you can see.