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How to watch the Perseids, the best meteor shower of the year

Tuesday, August 4, 2020, 3:14 p.m.

From: CBS News

Summer 2020 brought with it the spectacular comet Neowise, the visibility of five planets and a full moon at once, and a series of breathtaking meteor showers. But that saved the best for last – the Perseid meteor peak next week and it will be the best all year.

What are the Perseids?

Perseids are active every year from July 14 to August 24, according to NASA. The meteor shower peaks next week, around the mornings of August 11, 12 and 13.

Under ideal conditions, celestial observers can expect to see up to 100 meteors per hour – a much larger number than most other showers. NASA considers it the best shower of the year.

Meteors are very fast and bright, often leaving behind long tails of light and color as they spread across the sky. They are also known for their fireballs, which are large explosions of bright light and color that can last longer than the average meteorite.

Perseid meteors seem to radiate from the constellation Perseus ̵

1; giving the name to a soul. The constellation is not the source of meteors, so viewers do not have to find its exact location to spot a soul.

Meteors are remnants of a comet and bits of broken asteroids. Astronomers suspected of the comet are responsible for a meteor shower called 109P / Swift-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1862 by Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle and orbits the sun once every 133 years.

The comet’s nucleus is 16 miles away, which is almost twice the size of the object that scientists thought was obliterating the dinosaurs, NASA said. It last passed through the inner solar system in 1992.

When and where to watch the Perseids

Perseids appear during the warm nights of summer, making them easily visible from around the world, especially in the Northern Hemisphere. The meteors will be visible in the days around the top of the shower in the hours before dawn, but they can be seen as early as 10 o’clock.

Weather permitting, NASA recommends finding a place with a clear view of much of the sky. Moonlight can obstruct meteors’ vision, but viewers must also stay away from any light sources to have the best chance of seeing the spectacular show.

Lie flat on your back and look up, allowing your eyes to adjust for a few minutes before absorbing as much of the sky as possible for at least an hour. You will not need special equipment or knowledge of the constellations to see the show.

The tip of the shower is not your last chance to spot meteors – they can still be clearly seen in about 10 days. In addition, the Southern Delta and Alpha Casicornid meteor showers are still active, which adds to the dazzling light show of the sky.

If you are unable to watch Perseids, live streams are available. The virtual telescope project will share its own live broadcast from 22:00 UTC on Tuesday.

After the Perseids, the next meteor shower will not be until October, when the Orionids light up the sky.

Published for the first time on August 4, 2020 / 1:24 p.m.

© 2020 CBS Interactive Inc. All rights reserved.

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