Tahoe Arts and Mountain Culture
Tahoe Arts and Mountain Culture

Perseid Meteor Showers Peaking August 11

Posted on July 27, 2012
Filed Under Outside

Get ready for the show!  Perseid Meteor Showers will peak August 13.  Since there will be a full moon, the best time for viewing is now before dawn until the morning of August 10 to have moonless skies. Before dawn is the best time of night for watching meteors, anyway, since that is when the radiant point for the Perseids is highest in the sky. Bright moonlight will drown all but the brightest meteors from view on the mornings of August 12 – the peak mornings for the Perseid meteor shower.

Without a doubt, Tahoe is the best place to view them. Just get up a peak or out in one of our big open valleys and meadows. During the peak, the rate of meteors reaches 60 or more per hour. They can be seen all across the sky, but because of the path of Swift-Tuttle’s orbit, Perseids are mostly visible in the northern hemisphere.

The Perseids are so called because the point they appear to come from, called the radiant, lies in the constellation Perseus. Meteor showers occur when Earth moves through a meteor stream. The stream in this case is called the Perseid cloud and it stretches along the orbit of the Comet Swift-Tuttle.

The Perseids have a broad peak, so the shower is visible for several nights. Activity starts slowly in the evening but picks up by 11 p.m., when the radiant gets reasonably high in the sky. The meteor rate increases steadily through the night as the radiant rises higher, peaking just before the sky starts to get light, roughly 1½ to 2 hours before sunrise.

Here are some more tips for viewing:

  • Watch for Perseid meteors in the night skies from July 23rd to August 22nd.
  • Get away from artificial light if possible.
  • Look toward constellation Perseus for the radiant point of Perseid meteors. They’ll seem to come from that area, which is about halfway above the horizon in the northeast quadrant of the sky.
  • Begin your search for Perseids after 10 p.m. (although the best viewing comes from midnight until dawn).
  • Recline with your feet facing due south and look straight up. Perseids should appear to come from over your left shoulder.
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