Perseid Meteor Shower in 2016

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(NASA IMAGE)

The annual Perseid Meteor Shower will peak this year in after midnight-predawn hours of August 11th-12th, 2016. Although this shower has always been precedenced with great expectations, this year promises the opportunity of great expectations.

During a typical August show the shower produces somewhere in the range of 40-50 meteors per hour, which is excellent by any annual meteor shower standard. This year astronomers in most astronomical circles expect upwards to 100 or more meteors per hour. This is due to several factors, including the moon setting just after midnight allowing for dark skies without moonlight scattering. The most important factor this year is that the shower traditionally repeats at its greatest brilliance on a 12 year cycle and this year falls on the 12th year of that cycle. This is due to the gravitation influence of Jupiter upon the dust remnants of comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, from which the Perseids originate. Thus the radiant of the Perseids, or central point of origination, appears from the constellation Perseus.

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(Stellarium Image)

Even as early as late July Perseids may be glimpsed as precursors to the main show on the 11th-12th. By that date, the constellation Perseus is high in the night sky after midnight from mid-northern latitudes. Late July and early August are also the time window for two other annual meteor showers, the Delta Aquariids and Capricornids. By mid-August should you see a falling star, it would most likely be a Perseid.

The only requirements for meteor watching are comfortable clothing and good eyesight. Some stargazers prefer a blanket upon which to lay or a reclined chair. Meteors can appear anywhere if the night sky, so pick a location which affords the greatest view of the entire sky. Meteors often leave vapor trails which can be seen for seconds to minutes, aiding in the identification of which shower the meteor belonged. The Perseids have also been known to “storm”, in which case there are so many you can’t even keep count. So go out of the morning of the 11th or 12th after midnight, especially towards dawn. There’s a good chance, weather permitting, you may glimpse a nice celestial event.

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