Those hoping to enjoy watching will contend with a third quarter moon, which will popularize some of the fainter shooting stars. But the Perseids are rich in fireballs – or meteors brighter than the planet Venus – that will still survive the hard whitewash of the moon.
No matter where you live in the Lower 48, you have a chance to catch some of the meteors – weather allows. There is no specific place in the sky to look at, either. Just find a clear, dark location, allow your eyes to adjust, look up and enjoy the show.
Where did meteors come from?
Meteors will be most of the time predawn. That is when the constellation Perseus, from which the meteor appears, will be the highest in the sky. That point is called “shining.”; But the best shooting stars with the longest tails are usually located perpendicular to the blazing.
Don’t get too wrapped up in terminology or finding a “perfect place,” though. Anywhere in the sky is enough, with more prospects away from the luminance of the moon.
Meteor showers occur when the Earth breeds through a stream of debris left behind in a comet or asteroid. Like driving through a variety of highway bugs, Earth covers a spattering of interstellar pebbles and space rock during its annual orbit. In the case of Perseids, the pebbles came from the past Swift-Tuttle comet route.
Instead of leaving a rude smear on the glass, these particulates burn our outer environment about 60 miles[60 km]high, left in a natural light. Their enormous speed – about 36 miles per second – creates enormous friction when they encounter gas molecules in the atmosphere frames. It heats up to the point of combustion, making a wonderful color trail.
Where do meteor colors come from?
When a meteor burns, the elements it contains provide light. Perseids are rich in sodium, which accounts for their yellowish color. Some meteors also contain magnesium, iron, carbon and silicon.
Sometimes a glowing trail waits a while later. That is where a small air pillow is compressed early in the coming meteor. Compression causes heating, and air can be ionized and produce light. The paths are usually dense and can be used to reflect radio waves. That is how astronomers hear meteors from Earth.
How to enjoy the show
If you expect to enjoy shooting stars, head to a clear, dark location away from city lights. Beaches, ballfields and parks are perfect locations. Having a wide open, panoramic view of the sky is key.
If the weather is cloudy this Tuesday night, do not get angry. Wednesday night will also feature plenty of meteors, and you can even catch some stragglers on Thursdays. In fact, a sporadic meteor or two per hour is usually throughout August, thanks to a relatively wide stream of debris with plenty of material around it.
The Quadrantids, in January, had a peak that lasted only a few hours.
Not all of the shooting stars you will see this week are Perseids. Southern Delta Aquariids, Kappa Cygnids, and Piscis Austrinids are minor meteor showers that can avoid a shooting star or two per hour. You can tell them apart from Perseids, because their shooting stars travel in different directions in the sky, or possess a different speed or color.
You can also catch Jupiter and Saturn in the southwest sky. Jupiter will be brighter.
So if you are looking for a fun and meaningful, far-reaching social activity to share with friends and loved ones, try your luck chasing shooting stars. You can only get one wish.