Conditions will be almost perfect to catch a glimpse of the meteor shower at its peak this weekend.
The celestial event is eagerly anticipated by millions of skywatchers around the world, including University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Physics and Astronomy Professor Erik Hendrickson, who says this could be the best shower of the year since the moon is in its waning crescent phase and will be only 10% illuminated.
For those unfamiliar, the Perseids are one of the strongest and most dependable annual meteor showers. Hendrickson explained the Earth passes through the remnants of the tail of the Comet Swift-Tuttle every year around this time. And since Swift-Tuttle last passed close to Earth in 1992, its tail hasn’t dissipated like others have.
“The comet tail is relatively fresh. It’s dense and still concentrated, so when we go flying through, there’s a greater chance of seeing meteors.”
Here are three tips for seeing the meteors from Wisconsin.
What to Look For
Look to the northeast, find the constellation Cassiopeia, which looks like a big “W” in the sky. Below is Perseis, and the meteors will look as though they are coming from Perseis!
“Here’s your chance!” Hendrickson said. “The moon is going to be dim, so you’ll be able to see more if it’s a clear night.”
Hendrickson said people often mistake meteors for shooting stars, but they’re really just debris. “They’re little, tiny particles of dust, rock, and ice. When they hit our atmosphere, they burn up.”
Where to Go
Wisconsin is a great place for viewing.
“Anything in the Northern Hemisphere is going to be best,” Hendrickson said.
Once you’ve got your spot, find a place to lie down, with your feet pointing roughly to the northeast, and look straight up.
Hendrickson added it’s best to head out of town to an area without light pollution. And don’t forget your bug spray and a blanket!
When to Look
The Perseids peak this weekend when the Earth passes through the densest and dustiest area of the comet tail. The peak night is August 12th and into the 13th.
The best time to see them is between midnight and dawn.
On average, you can expect to see up to 100 meteors per hour during the peak, according to NASA.
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