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Look in the sky this month for the Perseid meteor shower

Annual Perseid meteor shower, Aug. 13, 2015, in Spruce Knob, West Virginia. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

One of the year’s best meteor showers – the Perseids – is peaking, but there’s a big, bright object in the sky making prime views harder this year. It’s a full moon.

“Sadly, this year’s Perseids peak will see the worst possible circumstances for spotters,” NASA astronomer Bill Cooke said this week in a blog post. Cooke leads the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

The meteor shower officially peaked early Saturday morning, but the meteor show will be “active” through August. And “worst possible circumstances for spotters” doesn’t mean forget about the Perseids this year.

“Most of us in North America would normally see 50 or 60 meteors per hour,” Cooke said, “but this year, during the normal peak, the full Moon will reduce that to 10-20 per hour at best.”

The best places to try for a Perseid spotting are beaches – heads up, Gulf Shores – fields, lakeshores, mountaintops and backyards. Basically, anywhere without streetlights. After you to find your spot, it’ll be hard to avoid looking at that Moon. But if you can, give your eyes time to adjust to the dark. Bonus points for bringing a friend or family with you.

Meteors come from leftover pieces of comets and “broken asteroids,” NASA says. When they swing around the Sun, they leave dusty trails, and the Earth passes through those trails. The Perseids are remnants of the comet Swift-Tuttle. They move fast – 132,000 miles an hour – and melt before hitting the Earth. Cooke says they’re called Perseids because they seem to be coming from the constellation Perseus.

As for the comet itself, it won’t pass Earth until 2125.

If this is “one of the best” meteor showers, what’s better? The Geminids are usually the strongest, so mark your calendar now for Dec. 13 and14. The Moon will be only 72 percent full then.


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