A new moon this weekend will make the spectacle of the annual Perseid meteor shower even more scintillating for much of the world, and sky watchers are expecting a “great show.”
That’s the word as we get set to head into a magical astronomical weekend. And once evening falls this Sunday, you can expect to see a meteor, or a “shooting star,” streaking across the sky every few minutes. The meteor shower will peak overnight into Monday, with 70 meteors visible each hour, according to the Royal Astronomical Society. Hopefully, clear skies will allow for the best viewing.
But if your view is obscured by weather or clouds this weekend–as it just might be here in the DMV–don’t stress! The Perseids are visible for several nights afterward, as well.
“The moonless sky this year means the viewing will be excellent, and the shower’s predicted peak is timed especially well for North America,” Diana Hannikainen, Sky & Telescope magazine’s observing editor, said in a statement. “Under a very dark sky, you might see up to one Perseid per minute late on Sunday night or after midnight on Monday morning.”
HOW TO WATCH
Patience is key. It can take up to 45 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark for optimal viewing. The meteors can appear anywhere in the sky, but they look the brightest against the darkest sky, which is straight up.
Some meteors only have faint, quick streaks. Others are brighter and can appear to sail across our sky for several seconds, leaving a glowing smoke trail. Meanwhile, the best way to view the meteor shower is by sitting in a reclining lawn chair or lying on your back and looking up at the sky with a wide view. No special equipment is needed, but if you want the best view, it helps to be as far from artificial light as possible.
Beyond that, If you live in an urban area, you might want to take a drive to avoid city lights, which can make the meteor shower seem faint. Scientists from NASA also said that camping out in the country can triple the amount of visible meteors.
And finally, don’t forget to grab your camera before you head out. Meteor showers are a great opportunity for time-lapse videos and long-exposure photography, allowing your shots of the night sky to turn into van Gogh-like paintings of this starry spectacle…