This famous shower comes around this time each year as the Earth moves through a cloud of debris left by the giant comet 109P / Swift-Tuttle. Pieces of dust, pebbles and other cosmic detritus seep into our atmosphere, burning in short, bright streaks and even from random full-fledged fireballs piercing the night sky.
In 2020, the Perseids are expected to reach their peak on August 11 and 12, when the moon should be just under half.
The popularity of the shower is a combination of the fact that it is one of the strongest, with up to 100 visible meteors per hour on average and coincides with the warm summer nights in the northern hemisphere. The fading moon is likely to wash away many otherwise visible meteors, but that still leaves plenty that should be easy to see if you do a little planning.
See the Perseid meteor shower make a celestial scene around the world
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In general, a good strategy is to focus on searching for Perseids as late as possible in the evening, but still before sunrise at your location. So in New York, for example, you’d like to be as far away as possible from this possible light pollution until about 11 p.m. On Tuesday night (peak night), because the moon will rise about an hour later at 12:08 p.m. on Wednesday. (You can search for sunset and sunrise for your location with a site like TimeandDate.com.)
You can also try to block the moon by settling next to a building, tree, or something else that protects some of that moonlight from your retinas.
The moon will begin to disappear completely after the middle of the month, and although the Perseids will pass their heyday, they will still be active and visible. This half-peak shower with a completely dark sky can be about the same as a full peak with a bright moon, so don’t think must go out on peak night to catch him.
Once you have decided on the perfect time and place with minimal light interference and a wide view of the sky, just lean back, let your eyes adjust and relax. Pillows, blankets, sun loungers and refreshing drinks create the perfect experience. It can take about 20 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark, so be sure to be patient. If you follow all my advice, you are almost certain to see a meteor.
In fact, it doesn’t matter where you look in the sky, as long as you have a wide view. This said that the Perseids would radiate from the constellation of Perseus, the Hero. If you want to practice like an advanced meteor, find Perseus and try to focus there as you watch. Then try to just look up without focusing anywhere. See if you notice a difference. We are still dealing with the unpredictability of nature, so the results will vary.
Probably the best part of the Perseids every year are the great photos we get from talented astrophotographers spending long nights outside.
As always, if you capture beauties yourself, please share them with me on Twitter or Instagram @EricCMack.