Observe the Perseid Meteor Shower at its peak, Aug. 11-13
Look up! The Perseid Meteor Shower, one of the most spectacular meteor showers of the year, will peak Aug. 11 through Aug. 13. In preparation for this cosmic event, Planetarium Specialist Bill Reed of Lake Erie Nature & Science Center explains what a meteor shower is and provides tips for seeing “shooting stars” this month.
What is a meteor shower?
Comets are large, icy solar system bodies. As a comet passes closer to the sun, its ice warms and begins to release particles of dust and rock into the atmosphere, which can result in a glowing trail of vapor.
Meteor showers occur when meteoroids -- the rocks and debris left behind by a comet -- enter the Earth's atmosphere. Meteoroids are almost always small enough to quickly burn up in our atmosphere, so there is little chance they will strike Earth's surface.
Meteors, commonly known as "shooting stars," are the streaks of light we see in the sky when a meteoroid burns up in the Earth's atmosphere.
How can I observe the Perseid Meteor Shower?
Each year, Earth passes through the debris trail of Comet 109P Swift-Tuttle which results in visible meteor showers that peak around early to mid-August.
Meteor showers are named after the location of their radiant. To observe the Perseid Meteor Shower at its peak, look northeast toward the constellation Perseus the evening of Aug. 11 or the early morning of Aug. 12. Perseus will gradually rise in the night sky and reach optimal observing just before sunrise. You can expect to see meteors all over the sky, with an average of 60-70 meteors per hour.
The key to seeing the Perseid Meteor Shower? Head to a dark, clear area with minimal light pollution (excessive or inappropriate use of outdoor artificial light). Avoid looking at your phone, as it takes about 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to full darkness. The longer you wait, the more meteors you will see!
Bonus: The crescent moon phase on Aug. 11-13 will result in favorable viewing conditions.
Space science programs at Lake Erie Nature & Science Center
Lake Erie Nature & Science Center will hold Perseid Meteor Shower Night on Friday, Aug. 13. Doors open at 7:15 p.m. Planetarium presentations are 30 minutes and begin at the following times: 7:30 p.m., 8:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. (first come, first served). Masks are recommended indoors for all visitors. Fee: $10/person. Learn about meteor showers in Schuele Planetarium then head outdoors to experience one of nature’s greatest shows. Weather permitting, telescope viewing will be available in the field across from the Center with an 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope.
Join NASA JPL Solar System Ambassador Bill Reed for Astronomy Club. Enjoy access to monthly meetings, Telescope Night programs, telescope rentals, planetarium movie nights and more. Annual fee: $60/household. Those interested in Astronomy Club are welcome to enjoy their first meeting at no cost. Next meeting: Aug. 18 at 6:30 p.m.
To learn more and register for Lake Erie Nature & Science Center programming, please visit www.lensc.org.
Morgan Paskert is on staff at Lake Erie Nature & Science Center.