Peoria, Ill. — The annual Perseid meteor shower is underway and will peak on the mornings of August 11th, 12th and 13th.
Meteor Shower Facts
- Source: Comet Swift-Tuttle
- Active from July 14th – August 24th
- Peak viewing: Mornings of August, 11th, 12th & 13th.
- Peak meteor count: Up to 100 meteors per hour
The Perseids start around July 14th and continue through August 24th as Earth crosses the orbital path of the comet Swift-Tuttle. As we pass through the heart of the debris trail, the number of meteors that collide with Earth’s atmosphere will increase, peaking early next week.
Discovered in 1862 by Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle, Comet Swift-Tuttle has an oblong 133-year orbit around our sun. The orbit takes the comet past Pluto at its farthest point from the sun and inside Earth’s orbit at its closest point. As the comet gets closer to the sun, pieces of ice break off the comet surface and add to the debris field that Earth passes through. These pieces of ice and debris slam into Earth’s atmosphere at more than 133,000 miles per hour.
The Perseid meteor shower gets its name from the constellation Perseus. This is the location of the radiant – where the meteors appear to come from. While the meteors don’t actually come from Perseus, it does help viewers identify which meteor shower they are actually seeing.
Best Viewing Tips
To view the shower you’ll want to look in the northeast sky towards the constellation Perseus between midnight and dawn in an area with low light pollution. The meteor shower will peak on the mornings of August 11th, 12th and 13th but you may not want to wait until then to view them.
A few storm systems are expected to impact Central Illinois from Sunday through Tuesday. Even if clouds are able to clear for a few hours each night the moon will be nearly full which will act to drown out some of the fainter meteors.
The best time to view the meteor shower may very well be Friday night in to Saturday morning (August 9th-10th). While the moon will be a little more than a quarter full, the moon will set around 2:30 am limiting light pollution through the prime viewing hours.
Look For This Too!
While you’re out looking for meteors you should easily be able to spot the Moon, Jupiter and Saturn in the southern sky! On Friday night (August 9th), Jupiter will be really close to the waxing gibbous moon while Saturn sits a bit to the left. On Saturday night, the Moon will be in between Jupiter and Saturday and eventually right next to Saturn Sunday night. Between the Perseid Meteor Shower and this, there’s a lot to enjoy in the night sky this weekend!