Image at top by EarthSky Facebook friend Mike Lewinski. Thanks, Mike!
The moon and the dazzling planet Venus appear in the western sky at dusk on Friday, August 9, 2013. They follow the sun beneath the horizon shortly thereafter. Fortunately, the early setting of the waxing crescent moon for the next several days will provide a dark sky for watching the Perseid meteor shower for the next several nights. The meteors are already flying, and the Perseid shower is still building to its peak, which is expected to come in the dark hours before dawn on Monday and Tuesday mornings – August 12 and 13. But Saturday and Sunday mornings – in the hours between midnight and dawn – should produce a good number of Perseid meteors, too, if you’re blessed with a clear, dark country sky.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the best sky event of summer is often the Perseid meteor shower. This shower is also visible to a lesser extent in the Southern Hemisphere. These meteors are generally few and far between at mid-evening, but the numbers pick up as evening deepens into late night. The Perseid meteors intensify after midnight and are generally at their best in the early hours before dawn.
The Perseid shower builds over some days to a peak and then drops off rapidly afterwards. Early this weekend, the meteor rates will probably be around a quarter to a half of what they’ll be on the peak mornings of August 12 and 13. Whichever night you choose to watch the Perseids, the greatest number of meteors tend to fall between midnight and dawn.
The Perseid shower is named after the constellation Perseus, because these meteors seem to stream from this part of the sky. But you don’t need to find Perseus to watch these fast, bright meteors streaking across the heavens. Simply find a dark, open sky and look upward from a comfortable reclining position. Give your eyes at least 20 minutes to adapt to the dark and give yourself a good hour to view the Perseids, summertime’s best meteor shower. As alluded to before, the Perseid meteors are visible from the Southern Hemisphere, too, but the shower is more modest in that part of the globe.
With access to a dark, open sky, people in the Northern Hemisphere are likely to see a few to several dozen meteors per hour. From the Southern Hemisphere, the Perseids may exhibit about one dozen meteors an hour.
Bottom line: On this Friday night – August 9, 2013 – spot the moon and Venus low in the west at evening dusk, and watch the Perseid meteors from late evening until dawn!