The Perseid meteor shower will burst into light this August as Earth passes through the long trail left by Comet Swift-Tuttle — and this year, it's slated to put on a spectacular show. Here's how and when to see the Perseids.
According to NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke, the Perseids are perhaps the most popular meteor shower of the year. They will be in "outburst" in 2016, which means they'll appear at double the usual rates.
"This year, instead of seeing about 80 Perseids per hour, the rate could top 150 and even approach 200 meteors per hour," Cooke said. It's the first such outburst since 2009.
Astrophotographer Cody Limber made a photo of some early Perseid meteors that he caught from his deck on Orcas Island in Washington. The shot combines images taken over the course of four days in August 2013.
When to see them?
Earth will pass through the path of Comet Swift-Tuttle from July 17 to Aug. 24, with the shower's peak — when Earth passes through the densest, dustiest area — occurring on Aug. 12. That means you'll see the most meteors in the shortest amount of time near that peak, but you can still catch some action from the famed meteor shower before or after that point.
The meteors will seem to originate from the constellation Perseus, which appears on the horizon at about 10 p.m. local time. However, the most meteors will be visible after midnight. They can appear all over the sky, but they will always look like they're streaking away from Perseus.
You can see the Perseid meteor shower best in the Northern Hemisphere and down to the mid-southern latitudes, and all you need to catch the show is darkness, somewhere comfortable to sit and a bit of patience.
The full moon is on Aug. 18, so you will likely get a better glimpse of the meteors earlier in the month, when the moonlight is not as bright and disruptive.
What do you need to see them?
The key to seeing a meteor shower is "to take in as much sky as possible," Cooke said. Go to a dark area, in the suburbs or countryside, and prepare to sit outside for a few hours. It takes about 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark, and the longer you wait outside, the more you'll see. A rate of 150 meteors per hour, for instance, means two to three meteors per minute, including faint streaks along with bright, fireball-generating ones.
A photo of a meteor taken in Nevada County, California from a vista point along Highway 20, on August 7, 2013, made by Barbara Matthews
Some skywatchers plan to camp out to see the Perseid meteor shower, but at the very least, viewers should bring something comfortable to sit on, some snacks and some bug spray. Then, just relax and look upward for the celestial show.
source - http://www.space.com