Put August 11 on your calendar to watch the night sky. The best meteor shower of the year, the Perseids, will be entertaining night sky watchers with at least 40 fireballs an hour when they peak next week. However, they have been known to rack up as many as 100 meteors per hour.
As debris from comet Swift-Tuttle, the Perseid Meteor Shower occurs annually when earth’s orbit takes it near the comet’s path from the end of July to mid-August. The meteors are already zooming across the sky but in 2021 the peak is Aug. 11-13.
If you like company or have trouble seeing them, tune into NASA which has invited everyone to watch with them. Watch time is Aug. 11-12 from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. CDT on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
If weather is a problem, there is likely to be a second chance Aug. 12-13. The livestream is hosted by the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.
A crescent moon will be setting early so moonlight shouldn’t be a factor. Watch between midnight and dawn away from city lights. Some folks stretch out on blankets but if the ground is dewy damp pull out a lawn chair.
Don’t worry if you don’t see any meteors right away. It takes a few minutes to adapt to the night sky. The meteor shower radiant appears to be above Perseus.
Assuming the weather cooperates, early risers should have no trouble spotting a fireball zooming across the sky shortly before dawn in the next few days. The Lyrids meteor shower is happening now.
They seem to be shooting out (radiant) from the Lyric constellation just northwest of its bright Vega star. They are debris from the comet Thatcher (C/1861 G1), first noted more than 2,500 years ago.
The best days to look for them are April 21-22 when the Lyrids are expected to peak at about 18 meteors an hour. Pre dawn is the best time to watch because the moon is waxing gibbous so its illumination won’t be a factor after it sets.
For the time to watch in your zone visit Time and Date. For more information on where to look visit Space which has a map to help find the radiant. For more basic meteor and Lyrid information visit NASA Lyrids.
The weekend of July 17 will be a great time to check out the night sky.
The NEOWISE Comet (C/2020 F3) can be seen zooming across northern United States and Canada after sunset. Watch for it now because it won’t be back for thousands of years. Tip: Look for the Big Dipper. Start with binoculars to first see the comet below the Big Dipper but then try unaided.
But also try to spot the planets. The schedule of when they first appear this weekend goes from late night July 17 through early July 18. Being able to see all seven planets over two days is a rare occurrence.