Meteors and Supermoon compete for attention

 

Meteor shower (Photo courtesy of NASA)
Meteor shower (Photo courtesy of NASA)

Circle Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022 on the calendar or make a note on the smart phone for a double sky phenomenon. But one sky event may make it hard to see the other.

The Perseids, arguably the best meteor shower of the year, already started July 17 but continues through Aug. 24. It peaks Aug. 12-13 with from 50 to 100 meteors zooming across the sky per hour.

The meteors are debris from parent comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle whose radiant is the Perseus constellation in the northeastern sky. The greatest number of meteors will be visible after the radiant rises, according to Earth SkyThe radiant rises around 11 p.m. CT, nearly due northeast in Perseus so the Perseids are best viewed from midnight to sunrise. 

Perseus was the Greek mythological hero who stopped (beheaded) Medusa the Gorgon (Maybe you’ve seen the TV ad where Medusa enters a bar and turns guys to stone).

The problem: August’s full moon, glowing in the sky Aug. 11-13 is the fourth and last supermoon of 2022. As a supermoon whose orbit brings it closer to earth than most moons come the rest of the year, it looks larger and brighter than usual. That large illumination makes it harder to spot meteors.

July's full moon was a supermoon because its orbit brought it so close to Earth. (J Jacobs photo)
July’s full moon was a supermoon because its orbit brought it so close to Earth. (J Jacobs photo)

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

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

Aptly named, at least for 2022’s August Supermoon, this full moon is called the Sturgeon Moon after the giant fish found in the Great Lakes that is often caught the last month of summer.  A good source for full moon names is The Old Farmer’s Almanac. The sturgeon is considered a “living fossil” for its beginnings about 136 million years ago.

(For information on when to watch for the Perseids in your area visit Time and Date.)

 

The Perseid meteor shower is back

 

The Perseids produce more than 40 meteors per hour. (Photo courtesy of NASA)

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 FacebookTwitter 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.

Good sky-watching references include Time and Date and Earth and Sky.

.

 

 

 

Early to rise catches the Perseids

 

Meteor Shower photo courtesy of NASA
Meteor Shower photo courtesy of NASA

Check the weather predictions in your area for Aug. 11-13. That is when the Perseids are supposed to be peaking with bright meteors shooting across the sky at 50 to 100 an hour.

Best time say the experts, is in the northern hemisphere right before dawn, so also check  the sunrise times for your area.

Because these meteors are bright, plentiful and have long tails, the largish waning crescent moon might not be much of a hindrance the night of Aug. 11. By Aug 13 the moon will be thinner though there may be fewer meteors.to spot.

So where do they come from?

The Perseids are debris from the 109P/Swift-Tuttle comet. They are called Perseids because they look like they emanate (their radiant) from the Perseus constellation as the Earth moves through their trail each summer.

The comet’s name comes from Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle who discovered it in 1862.

For more Perseid meteor shower information visit Time and Date, NASA and EarthSky.

 

Related: Falling Star Alerts