Even though last month's fireworks have faded into the night, it's still possible to catch a spectacular sky show this summer.
The Perseid meteor shower peaks today, and, weather permitting, it promises an early-morning show throughout the United States worth losing a little sleep for.
The Perseids, named because most of the meteors appear to originate in the vicinity of the constellation Perseus, appear each August.
"This is one of the two best meteor showers of the year with the highest meteor count," said San Juan College Planetarium Director David Mayeux. "The good thing about meteor showers like this is there isn't only one time you can view them. You should be able to see an increase in meteor activity in the sky starting now and lasting a few days after the peak."
Mayeux said the moon will be in a first-quarter phase and waxing at the time and will be set at about 1 a.m., so it will not provide too much light interference.
The best view for the Perseids is usually between 2 to 5 a.m., Mayeux said.
"But anytime after midnight you will be able to see more meteors," he said. "The reason is because when we're viewing the sky on the Earth's morning side, we're facing into the meteor shower. Before midnight, we're facing the opposite side. You can still see some meteors before midnight, but it's not the best angle."
As usual when viewing celestial events, the weather could be a factor. Current forecasts show possible thunderstorms in the afternoon or evening on Monday and Tuesday, but Wednesday is predicted to be relatively cloud-free.
Mayeux said this might be a good meteor shower to rouse the kids for because, in addition to school not yet being in session, the Perseids occur during a warm month. That makes it more comfortable for early morning viewing than the other meteor-rich shower, the Geminid, which occurs in December. The Perseid shower is also known for producing brighter, longer lasting meteors, and sometimes even fireball meteors, which can streak through a large portion of the sky.
While viewers might see more meteors by focusing on the northeast portion of the sky, Mayeux says they can be visible in any area of the sky. The important thing is to keep your eyes peeled on as wide of an area of the sky as possible and to use peripheral vision to spot movement, he said.
"This is one of those events when you do not want to use a telescope," he said. "Anyone can view the meteor shower on their own."
By Leigh Black Irvin - The Daily Times, Farmington, N.M. (MCT)
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