BY AMY SAYLE
The 2014 Perseid meteor shower will peak on the night of August 12/13 (Tuesday evening/Wednesday morning). Tips for viewing the meteors:
1) Adjust your expectations. In 2014, the peak of the Perseid meteor shower coincides with a waning gibbous Moon. That moonlight will hide the dimmer meteors from your view. This year, you might see around 20 or more Perseids an hour if you look between midnight and dawn on the peak night. Although that’s fewer than you get to see during a favorable year for the Perseids, a bright meteor every few minutes is still more than you can expect to see on an average night sometime else during the year.
2) Know what you’re actually seeing. Even though they are sometimes called “shooting stars,” meteors are not falling or dying stars. The streaks of light you see result from cosmic debris interacting with Earth’s atmosphere. In the case of the Perseids, the debris has been left by Comet Swift-Tuttle.
3) Choose a good time to look. The peak night for the Perseids is expected to be August 12/13, 2014 (Tuesday evening into Wednesday morning). But the Perseid meteor shower is already happening, so if you have a clear sky, you might try looking earlier. You can also try looking for a couple of nights or so after the peak. Just don’t expect to see as many meteors. To see the most meteors, try viewing after midnight on the peak night. If earlier in the evening is more convenient for you, you may get to see a dramatic “earthgrazing” Perseid that makes a long streak across the sky. Most important of all: Check your weather forecast. You won’t see Perseids through clouds or rain.
4) Choose a good place. Find a safe dark place (away from unshielded lights) with an open view of the sky.
5) Bring a reclining chair. Craning your neck to look up at the sky quickly becomes tiring. Consider bringing a reclining lawn chair or sleeping bag. 6) Wear warmer clothes than you think you need. Even in summer, it can feel cold when you’re outside for a while in the middle of the night, especially when you’re not moving around.
7) Choose a good direction of the sky to look. Face away from the Moon (getting it behind trees or a building if possible), and look toward the darkest part of your sky. You don’t need to know how to identify the constellation Perseus, the part of the sky from which the meteors appear to originate. Late at night the Perseids can appear anywhere in the sky.
Photo credit: Waning Gibbous Moon by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio