COLUMBUS (WCMH) — If skies clear sufficiently late tonight, and you reside in a relatively rural environment well away from city lights, you could catch a view of a few meteors in the predawn hours Wednesday.
The best opportunity may be in the northern part of the state, where slightly drier air will filter in with high pressure over the Great Lakes.
The annual Perseid meteor shower peaks before dawn on Aug. 12. However, every year presents different viewing challenges: light pollution, cloud cover, and moonlight. Tonight’s opportunity is middling at best, because patchy clouds will linger in central Ohio overnight, and the moon will be up for a while to dim the show.
In rural areas late tonight, assuming a mainly clear sky, a handful of meteors to perhaps a dozen could be visible later tonight under the best conditions.
Meteors will emanate from the constellation Perseus in the north. But all you have to do is look up. Be sure to give your eyes up to a half-hour to adjust to the night sky.
The Persieds appear when Earth passes through dust and debris left over from Comet Swift-Tuttle in between late July and mid-August every year. The elusive comet last swung distantly past Earth in 1992 in its orbit around the sun.
The usually faint streaks of light are caused by bits of cometary debris burning up in the atmosphere, moving at a speed of about 133,000 m.p.h.
Don Stevens, Director of Perkins Observatory at Ohio Wesleyan University, explains: “Most meteors are the size of grains of sand or small pebbles. They are moving very fast though, tens of thousands of miles per hour, when they hit the atmosphere! That creates a lot of friction with the air, heating and ionizing it. That is what makes all that light and burns most of them up before they hit the ground. Only the largest meteors make it to the ground. We call those that hit the ground meteorites.”