While some Seattleites might be dreading our potentially record-breaking heat this week, weather experts say the clear skies should be perfect for viewing the Perseid meteor shower.
The Perseids peak every August when cosmic debris left behind by the Swift-Tuttle comet hits Earth’s atmosphere. The meteor shower is usually made up of 160 to 200 meteors that soar through our atmosphere every hour during its peak, according to The New York Times. Seeing all of them, however, is pretty unlikely, NASA says.
“It is basically what a perfect observer would see under perfect skies with the meteor shower radiant straight overhead — which never happens!” NASA said in a blog this week.
Still, science and nature website EarthSky ranks the Perseids as its “all-time favorite meteor shower” in the Northern Hemisphere. This year, the show will likely be most visible early Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings. And, because the moon is in a waxing crescent phase, it will set in the early evening here, out of the way just as the Perseids peak.
The fireballs have already been spotted in NASA footage captured last week.
The best way to see a meteor shower is to get to a location where you have a good view of a wide-open sky, ideally somewhere away from city lights and traffic where you can see meteors shoot across various constellations, EarthSky says. All these meteors will come from a single point in the sky — their radiant point, according to the website.
Experts also encourage viewers to watch from midnight to dawn, which is when “the part of Earth you’re standing on will be heading into the meteor stream,” EarthSky says. The meteors will start to streak in mid- to late evening in the Northern Hemisphere and by dawn, they’ll be “raining down from overhead,” according to the website.
According to the NASA blog post, people in the Seattle area should be able to see the highest number of meteors per hour around 3:30 to 4:30 a.m. Country dwellers will have far more luck than those living in cities or suburbs, who will likely see fewer than 10 an hour.
And give yourself at least an hour of observing time. Meteors in showers often come in spurts but can be spread out over a night — so grab a blanket and a lawn chair, and get ready to wait and watch.