SOUTHERN UTAH — The popular Perseid meteor shower is expected to light up the night sky in a spectacular way this year with an “outburst” of up to 200 meteors per hour.
The number of meteors for this year’s Perseids shower is expected to be double that of other years, according to Space.com.
The increase in meteors expected this year is called an “outburst” and happens when the Earth passes through a clump of comet debris.
The clumps are caused by the gravitational pull of Jupiter as the comet passes through the inner solar system, according to Nasa.com. The last Perseid outburst occurred in 2009.
The Perseid meteor shower occurs July 17 through Aug. 24 with the peak expected overnight on Thursday, Aug. 11-12, according to Nasa.com. The meteor shower may also increase late Friday night and early Saturday morning.
The moon will be about half full on Aug. 11. Early in the evening, the light of the moon will interfere with viewing. However, conditions for watching the meteor shower will be ideal when the moon sets after midnight and on through until sunrise.
The meteor shower will appear to radiate from the constellation Perseus in the northern sky. The particles that form the shower are dust from the comet Swift-Tuttle, which follows a well-defined orbit around the sun, according to Nasa.com.
Each year in August, the Earth passes through the comet’s debris; meteors are caused by the tiny debris burning up in Earth’s atmosphere.
Here are some tips from Nasa.gov to make watching a meteor shower more enjoyable:
- Get as far away from urban light pollution as possible. Find a location with a clear, unclouded view of the night sky.
- Once you get to your viewing location, search for the darkest patch of sky you can find, as meteors can appear anywhere overhead.
- Whether viewing from your front porch or a mountaintop, be sure to dress appropriately – wear clothing for cold overnight temperatures.
- Bring something comfortable on which to sit or lie down. Plan to be patient and watch for at least half an hour. A reclining chair or pad will make it far more comfortable to keep your gaze on the night sky.
- Put away the telescope or binoculars. Using either one reduces the amount of sky you can see at one time, and lowers the odds that you’ll see a meteor. Instead, let your eyes relax and don’t look in any one specific spot. Relaxed eyes will quickly catch any movement in the sky, and you’ll be able to spot more meteors. Avoid looking at your cell phone or any other light, as both destroy night vision.
Cedar City meteor party
The Southern Utah Space Foundation has scheduled a Perseid meteor shower viewing party for Friday at 8 p.m. at Three Peaks Recreational Area.
The Foundation will have a large telescope available, and the event is free and open to the public. Bring a blanket or warm clothes and a chair to sit in.
Members of the Foundation will stay until everyone has their fill of viewing. However, in the event of inclement weather, a representative will be at the viewing location at 8 p.m. If the party is rained out and no one shows up, the event will be cancelled.
Directions to Three Peaks from Cedar City can be found here.
- For more information about this year’s night sky events, see: Skywatcher Alert: 2016 night sky celestial events calendar
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