The 2016 edition of the Perseid Meteor Shower should be a good one. In most years the meteor shower produces 60 to 120 meteors per hour as seen under dark sky conditions but this year the Earth will be plowing through a more dense stream of cometary debris left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle. On the morning of Friday, August 12th the shower peaks with up to 200 meteors per hour predicted. NASA’s video below explains the Perseid meteor shower as well as other astro highlights for the month.
As the constellation Perseus rises in the northeast the Moon will be setting in the southwest at about 1:30 a.m. CDT here in the DFW area. This will be the best time to begin watching for meteors. Choose a location away from city lights. Use a reclining lawn chair so you and lean back and encompass as much of the night sky as possible. It’s not necessary to focus your gaze on the constellation Perseus. All the meteors you see will appear to originate from this constellation if you were to trace them back to that point but you will be able to see meteors all over the sky. If you see a meteor that does not appear to trace back to Perseus in the northeast sky then you know you’ve seen a “sporadic” meteor (one not related to the current meteor shower).
You will not need binoculars or a telescope to view the meteor shower. All that is necessary is your eyes and a comfortable chair. You might want to consider a snack, drinks, bug spray and a partner to enjoy this great sky show.
Counting the meteors is a great way to keep track of just how many you were able to see. You can take that even further and plot out the apparent direction the meteors travel too. The Astronomical League also has a meteor observing program that offers special recognition in the form of a Meteor Program Certificate for those that have dedicated a substantial amount of time to observing meteors in an organized way.
No matter what your interest level is this year the Perseid’s should make for a stunning late night show to those to brave the late or early hours.