Unusually active Perseid meteor shower peaks into the weekend

- For many of us, August is known for hot days, warm evenings, barbecues, the occasional storm, and the winding down of another summer gone by.  But for sky watchers, it is known for its meteor shower.  Every single year without fail, an annual display of fireworks rains down on our planet as it passes through a stream of dust from the Swift-Tuttle comet.

In an average year, you could see anywhere from 50 to 100 meteors an hour on peak night, with the other nights of the 2 week period or so coming in with just about a dozen or so an hour.  This year is different though.  NASA scientists are predicting up to 200 meteors an hour!  For those of you trying to do the math, that’s roughly 3 per minute.

In a typical year, Earth grazes the edge of Swift-Tuttle’s debris zone giving us a couple dozen meteors an hour for a few nights. Occasionally, though, Jupiter’s gravity tugs the dust trail closer, and Earth plows right through the middle. This appears to be one of those years.

To see the many meteors, or any at all for that matter, there is some time and prep involved.  First off, you’re going to have a late night.  Sunset isn’t until nearly 8:30 p.m., which means it’s not dark enough until close to 10 p.m., but the moon is still out at that point which can create some viewing issues.  So, you need to wait until the moon goes down right around 1 a.m.  If you can do all of that, the only other thing you need to do is drive out of town; get as far away from city lights as you can… then just look up.

Unfortunately for many of us in central and southern Minnesota, clouds and fog may obscure our view.  But if you happen to get a few breaks or are somewhere up north, then keep your eyes peeled overnight because the show could be pretty spectacular.

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