While new TV shows and movies releases are being delayed due to the ongoing pandemic, the sky continues to put on the best celestial shows of the year—from a "ring of fire" solar eclipse to a newly discovered comet. For another unforgettable astronomical sight, sky watchers are going to want to stay up late tonight because the Perseid meteor shower is peaking after midnight.
What Are the Perseids
The Perseids are considered to be the most impressive meteor shower of the year because of the high number of meteors per hour as well as the nice summer weather. Active during the summer in the Northern Hemisphere, the Perseid shower is caused by debris from the comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. During its peak, 50 to 100 meteors can be seen per hour, according to NASA. Perseids are also popular thanks to their fireballs, which are large explosions of light and color that can last longer than a meteor streak. They're also brighter than meteors.
When to Look up
The best time to view the Perseids is between 2 a.m. and dawn (your local time), according to NASA. Normally, we love seeing the moon shining brightly, but the brightness of tonight's moon, which rises at 12 a.m., will reduce the visible meteors from more than 60 per hour down to about 15 to 20 per hour. Still, you won't want to miss the meteors and fireballs.
If you don't want to stay up too late, you can catch the Perseids after dark (typically around 9 p.m.). You just won't see as many meteors as you would later in the early morning.
How to Watch the Perseids
The meteor shower can be viewed just your eyes, so you won't need telescopes or binoculars to watch. In fact, NASA says that telescopes and binoculars usually aren't encouraged since they have small fields of view. The meteors—some of which are from other active showers like the Alpha Capricornids—can be seen all across the sky so you don't have to look in a particular direction. Just be sure to let your eyes adjust to the dark, which typically takes about 30 minutes.
If the sky is cloudy or you can't find a good spot to view the shower in person, you can livestream it here.
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