Meteors will be shooting across the night sky this weekend, with a little knowledge and some planning, you may just catch one of nature's best shows.
Jeff Marx, associate professor of physics at , said the Perseid meteors are often fast meteors, moving 50 to 70 kilometers per second. He said they are also fairly bright, and may leave visible trails.
Marx said the predictions this year are for a modest shower, an average of one visible meteor per minute at peak.
"You might go several minutes without seeing any meteors and see a few in just a minute," Marx said. "In part, it's the hope of witnessing one of those little statistical flukes that makes watching meteor showers so much fun."
To optimize viewing, Marx suggests the following:
- First and foremost you should get to as dark a location as possible and allow ten minutes, at least, for your eyes to adjust to the darkness.
- To further improve your chances, try to view the shower as late at night as possible. After local midnight, the side of the Earth that you are on is moving directly into the debris field left over from comet Swift-Tuttle that is responsible for this particular shower.
- If you are viewing the shower just after sunset, as most people, then you will want to also have a relatively clear view of the eastern sky, as that will be the location from which the meteors will seem to appear. This apparent location in the sky is known as the radiant point, and is located in the constellation Perseus, after whom the shower is named.
- One last thing you can do to optimize your viewing is to sit on a lounge chair or lie on a blanket. Sitting upright or standing may cause you to move your head around to relieve tension in your neck, thereby reducing your chances of seeing these brief events.
- Beware of satellites. It’s easy to distinguish a satellite from a meteor: satellites move relatively slowly across the sky, while meteors are visible for, at most, a second or so.
Don't give up on shooting stars if you don't catch them this weekend. According to Marx, "on any night of the year if you look at a dark sky long enough, you are bound to see random meteors every so often."