Perseid meteor shower peaking: Where and when to look up for the sky show in Rochester

Weather Blog

SPRUCE KNOB, WV – AUGUST 11: In this 30 second exposure, a meteor streaks across the sky during the annual Perseid meteor shower, Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021, in Spruce Knob, West Virginia. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/ NASA via Getty Images)

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — It’s that time of year again where one of the most popular meteor showers makes its annual return to the night sky.

The Perseid meteor shower will be reaching its peak over the next couple days that could make for a neat sky show, if clear skies prevail.

WHAT IS IT: The Perseids are an annual meteor shower that peaks around mid-August. It comes from the Swift-Tuttle comet. No, not the Taylor Swift comet. The point at which they radiate from lies within the constellation Perseus, which is how this meteor shower got its name.

They are fast, bright, and fairly easy to catch while leaving long lasting streaks of color in the sky. This shower produces around 50-100 meteors per hour, which is roughly about 1-2 meteors per minute, give or take a few meteors.

This meteor shower is known also for producing “fireballs” as meteors come into contact with the “thicker” parts of the atmosphere at high speeds. These are brighter explosions of light that last longer than a typical meteor streak. Sounds pretty cool, right?

FUN FACT: According to NASA, “Comet Swift-Tuttle was discovered in 1862 by Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle. Swift-Tuttle is a large comet: its nucleus is 16 miles (26 kilometers) across. (This is almost twice the size of the object hypothesized to have led to the demise of the dinosaurs.)”

WHERE IS IT: The Northern Hemisphere sky hosts this event during this time, the Northeast skies to be exact.

WHEN IS IT: The shower runs from July 14th to August 24th, but reaches it peak on August 11th, 12, and 13th during the early morning hours. You can see meteors as early as 10 P.M. lasting through dawn the next day.

There will be a “new moon” during this time, which means there won’t be any moon light to distract from the show.

THURSDAY SKY UPDATE: There was some opportunity for viewing between clouds late Wednesday night, but it wasn’t ideal for all. Thursday night may provide better, albeit the best chances for widespread clearing as the threat for rain and storms goes down. Friday night may provide to be more difficult with the timing of storms now focused during the evening hours.

The good news with this meteor shower is that if you miss it, it will still be active for the next couple days, so there will be multiple opportunities for viewing, and you’re bound to get clearing at some point in between clouds, showers and a few storms.

TIPS FOR VIEWING:

  • You don’t have to be an astronomy expert to see this show, or own any special telescope or equipment. All you need are your eyes and a wide open, clear sky. Just look up!
  • Best time to watch will be from midnight until dawn. Just find the darkest sky you can, perhaps near a lakeshore, or anywhere away from city lights. Try a local park, open field, your backyard, or the shore of Lake Ontario!
  • Your eyes need time to adjust to the darkness of the sky, so a little bit of patience may be required in order to get the best out of the moment. Wait around 20 minutes or so for optimal viewing as your eyes adjust.
  • Remember not to fall backwards while standing and looking up at the same time. Grab a lawn chair or a blanket to sit on. Relax, and have fun!

~Meteorologist Christine Gregory

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