Sky watchers and astronomy fans will have a show this week, but only if they’re willing to stay up late or get up early. The annual Perseid meteor shower will light up the night skies over Arizona (and the entire Northern Hemisphere for that matter) as countless shooting stars zoom in.
The Perseids, so named because they appear to emanate from the constellation Perseus, occur in late July through early August every summer and bring in more than 60 meteors per hour during peak nights.
This year, the meteor shower will peak on the night of Wednesday, August 11, through the early hours of the morning of Thursday, August 12. If you want to see all these shooting stars, the following is a guide with details on when and where to look.
What Causes the Perseid Meteor Shower?
Various ice particles, rocks, dust and other celestial debris from comets, basically. Every year, the Earth’s orbit causes it to pass through this interstellar matter, which is thrown by comets as they pass through the solar system. It hits our atmosphere and turns into meteors. The Perseids are specifically caused by our planet coming into contact with the trail left by Comet Swift-Tuttle in July and August.
When do the Perseid Meteor Showers take place?
Meteorites will fly through the night sky from now until the end of August, with the peak of the Perseids occurring in the late hours of Wednesday, August 11 to Thursday, August 12.
When is the best time to watch?
According to the skywatching website EarthSky, your best bet is to start searching just before midnight on Wednesday until the early hours of Thursday. Again, you can still see shooting stars in the nights before and after those dates, but the peak will deliver more than 60 meteors per hour.
Where should you look?
In general, you’ll want to look up at the constellation Perseus in the northeast sky, which astronomers say is where the meteors (aka the radiant) appear to come from. You can use sky observation apps on Android and iOS like Star Map and StarGazer to find the constellation.
What are the best locations to see meteorites?
Anywhere there are open stripes of darkened sky. You can see meteorites anywhere in the Valley, even in the middle of the city, but your odds improve if things are as dark as possible.
If you live on the outskirts of the Valley, you should be ready to go by now. If you’re in the midst of sprawl, consider taking a trip to the boonies. Pete Turner of the Phoenix Astronomical Society told us last year that he recommends going to places on the north or east side of the valley (like Carefree, Fountain Hills, or Queen Creek, since you won’t have to look through the light pollution of the valley). Phoenix subway.
What will the viewing conditions be like?
The current forecast requires mostly clear conditions on Wednesday night and throughout the week, so there should be few clouds (if any) on the trail. The sky should also be relatively dark, since the moon will be at its growing crescent phase and it will be set relatively early in the evening.
Does having a telescope or binoculars help?
Not really. However, you can use them to view the stars, planets, and other stellar phenomena.