Sunday, August 11, 2013

Perfect Perseids: How to take advantage of a prime meteor show

Alan Boyle, Science Editor NBC News
Aug. 9, 2013

August's Perseid meteor shower may be one of the most dependable sky shows of the year, but the viewing conditions can be as inconstant as the moon — literally. Fortunately, the moon's glare won't be a factor this year, which means the show should be about as good as it gets over the next few days.

The prime viewing hours should come Sunday night. Or is that Monday night? This year, some say the peak is Aug. 11-12, while others say Aug. 12-13. What's a stargazer to do??

"I can understand the confusion you mention, as the predicted peak is around 3 p.m. EDT on the 12th," Bill Cooke, head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office at Marshall Space Flight Center, told NBC News in an email. "Since it occurs mid-afternoon, arguments can be made for the night of the 11th-12th, or the night of the 12th-13th. I am leaning toward the night of 11th, as there are usually more meteors seen leading up to the peak than after. ... If it were me, I'd go out both nights."


At its peak, observers could see an average of two flashes per minute, depending on viewing conditions. This is expected to be a better-than-average year because the moon will be just a few days past its new phase. The lunar crescent will be setting early in the evening, leaving glare-free skies during the midnight-to-dawn period that's most favorable for meteor sightings.


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