The Perseid meteor shower: Taking the opportunity to check out the skies

In ancient Greek star lore, Perseus is the son of the god Zeus and the mortal Danae. It is said...
In ancient Greek star lore, Perseus is the son of the god Zeus and the mortal Danae. It is said that the Perseid shower commemorates the time when Zeus visited Danae, the mother of Perseus, in a shower of gold, according to EarthSky. (Source: Pixabay)
Published: Aug. 1, 2021 at 4:02 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Perseid meteor shower is on the rise. The peak of the shower will hit from Aug. 11 to 13. At the peak, you could see 40 to 60 meteors per hour, but even before that, you have the chance to see meteors in the night sky.

Though you won’t see that many meteors between now and the peak of the showers, the clearing skies expected across western Alaska, Southwest, Interior and Southcentral over the next few days will provide some chances to see the night sky. NASA reported seeing its first Perseid meteor on July 26, so they are out there. At this point — with the caveat that we are a long way away— the viewing chances for the peak of the Perseids don’t look great for most of Alaska.

The best way to view the meteors is to find a clear, dark sky, away from light pollution. Light pollution includes your phone so turn it off and let your eyes adjust to the darkness.

The Perseids are so-named because they seem to radiate from the Perseus constellation in the northwest sky (near Aries and Taurus). It’s not necessary to look in a specific direction. Look up into the dark sky and the meteors are will appear as bright, quick streaks of lights.

Southern parts of the state will have a better chance of viewing the Perseid meteor shower because much of northern Alaska still isn’t getting dark enough. For the southern areas, it looks like the best time to view would be between midnight and about 3:30 a.m.

Looking at the moon phases, 2021 is a good year to check out the Perseids. The new moon will arrive on Aug. 8, so the sky will still be pretty dark, with a less than a quarter moon, by the time the peak hits on Aug. 11-13.

Next year, 2022, there will be a full moon during the peak which will make it more difficult to see them and in 2023, the waning crescent will be high in the sky.

Though they are often called “shooting stars,” they are actually tiny pieces of dust or rock, often the size of a grain of sand. Meteoroids are small particles that come from asteroids or comets. A meteor is a light phenomenon created when a meteoroid vaporizes as it enters Earth’s atmosphere.

The parent of the Perseid Meteor shower is the Comet Swift-Tuttle.

Comet Swift-Tuttle has a 133-year orbit between the Sun and beyond the orbit of Pluto. Every year between mid-July and late August, Earth crosses the comet’s orbital path and bits and pieces of comet dust hit Earth’s upper atmosphere and we see them as the Perseid meteors.

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