Why you should watch the 2022 Perseid meteor shower before it peaks

The Pershawian meteor shower, usually considered the most impressive of the year, approaches its climax on the night of August 11. But due to the effects of moonlight, the best time to see the event in 2022 might actually be a little earlier.

According to the American Meteorological Society (AMS), it will peak on the night of August 11-12, although the shower is active between July 14 and September 1.

Typically, you’d expect to see 50 to 75 meteors visible per hour at peak showers, observing from an area with clear skies and low light pollution, AMS said.

But on peak night in 2022, the moon will be full, making the event even more difficult to see.

“Our satellite, with its light, can literally spoil the show. Last year, for example, was great because the moon was basically new, so it wasn’t visible: We didn’t have any moonlight pollution,” astronomer Gianluca Massi, of the Virtual Project telescope, said NEWSWEEK.

“Unfortunately, this year we will have a full supermoon (the end of the year) just like the height of the Perseids. The full moon can be seen all night long, which seriously affects the enjoyment of meteor showers,” he said.

Stock Photo: Artist’s illustration of a meteorite. The Perseid meteor shower is approaching its peak.
iStock

Due to the effects of moonlight at the height of the night, Massey said observers may only be able to see 10-15 meteors per hour at this time, based on his experience with similar previous scenarios.

The best time to view the shower this year might be two nights before the peak, the night of August 9, the astronomer said, when it might be possible to see 30 meteors per hour within a short window.

“Tonight, the moon will set before dawn about 60 minutes, leaving a very dark sky at the end of the night when the radiation of the meteor shower is at its highest in the sky,” he said.

According to Massi, these are the most “desirable” conditions for observing the event.

Meteor showers are celestial events during which many meteors streak across the sky, appearing to originate from a single point – known as radiation. They occur when Earth passes through streams of cosmic debris left by comets and, in some rare cases, asteroids.

Tiny fragments of space debris burn up in the atmosphere at high speed producing meteors – the streaks of light we see in the sky that are commonly referred to as falling stars.

In the case of the Perseids, the radiation lies in the constellation Perseus, named after a hero in ancient Greek mythology who was the son of Zeus and Dany the mortal.

The main body of the meteor shower is Comet Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the Sun every 133 years and has a core 16 miles in diameter.

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