The annual Perseid meteor shower will peak Monday night on Aug. 12-13. The meteor shower actually commenced on July 17 and will continue through Aug. 24.
The Perseids are considered to be one of the best shows of the year, along with the Geminids in mid-December. The challenge will be a bright moon, which can wash away the fainter streaks of light, and cloud cover.
What causes the annual meteor shower?
Meteors are composed of tiny fragments as Earth transits through the debris trail (ice, rock, dust) of the orbit of Comet Swift-Tuttle. Tiny debris burns up in Earth’s upper atmosphere, while moving rapidly at 132,000 miles per hour (37 miles per second).
Most meteors are faint streaks of light mainly visible in dark skies, but an occasional bright fireball adds to the show. The debris cloud associated with the Perseids is unusually wide.
The comet, which has a nucleus of 16 miles, orbits the sun and passes by at a rapid speed, concluding one orbit every 133 years.
The most important element, of course, is the weather. Will the sky be clear, or at least partly cloudy where you are? Cloud cover, even high thin clouds, will diminish or completely block any opportunity to see streaking meteors.
Current indications are that the sky over Ohio will be partly cloudy Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights on the periphery of high pressure over the southern Plains. This should provide modest viewing opportunities, ideally late after the moon sets.
Where to see the meteor showers?
Under ideal conditions, we can see up to 60-plus meteors per hour during the height of the Perseids, but moonlight will limit the count to perhaps 10 to 20 at best over a period of several hours in an optimally clear, dark (rural) sky.
The best way to view the meteor shower is to scout out a location far away from the city lights. Meteors will emanate from the northeastern part of the sky in the vicinity of the constellation Perseus, but you essentially just have to look up at a fixed point.
The late evening sky will also feature Jupiter near the moon, high in the southern sky and aligned with Saturn in the southeast (left of the moon). Reddish Mars will also be visible late at night in the southeast.