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The best time for watching the Perseid meteor shower is coming this week

Viewing the annual summer meteor shower will be hampered by a bright full moon at its peak, but there are ways around that.
The annual Perseid meteor shower streak across the sky, seen here in 2014, started up on July 17 and will continue to dot the night sky through Aug. 24. The peak this year, when the most meteors will shoot across the sky, is expected to be Aug. 11-13.
The annual Perseid meteor shower streak across the sky, seen here in 2014, started up on July 17 and will continue to dot the night sky through Aug. 24. The peak this year, when the most meteors will shoot across the sky, is expected to be Aug. 11-13. [ AP (2014) ]
Published Jul. 27

Every summer, sky watchers look for the Perseid meteor shower to bring some lucky shooting stars between July and August.

According to NASA, the Perseids started up on July 17 and will continue to dot the night sky through Aug. 24. The peak this year, when the most meteors will shoot across the sky, is expected to be Aug. 11-13. That’s also the same time a full moon will be out: Like a natural light polluter, the bright moon can bleach out the sight of falling stars.

But there are ways around the setback, astronomers say. Right now and through Sunday there is a dark sky before the moon rises after midnight. The nights of Friday through Sunday “are probably the best time to look for shooting stars,” according to NASA, when it is possible to see them as early as 10 p.m. There’s also a chance you’ll catch some of the Delta Aquarids meteor shower, NASA said.

Meteors streak above the Wyoming countryside in a time-lapse photo taken at the peak of the Perseids meteor shower in 2013.
Meteors streak above the Wyoming countryside in a time-lapse photo taken at the peak of the Perseids meteor shower in 2013. [ AP (2013) ]

The Perseid meteors are pieces of the comet Swift-Tuttle, which last passed through the solar system in 1992 on its 133-year orbit of the Sun. When Earth passes the comet each summer, debris from Swift-Tuttle creates the shooting stars we see in the sky.

EarthSky.org advises viewers to look for the shower as it ramps up in early August, before the moon gets too bright. That’s when you have a good chance to see a few “Earth grazers,” the meteors that skim the upper atmosphere and can be quite spectacular.

Or take a look after the full moon is out of the night sky around Aug. 21, when it will rise well after midnight.

Another thing going against the Perseids is the regular pattern of thunderstorms we get this time of year. But until Aug. 24, the forecast should align in your sky-viewing favor.

The second most crucial viewing condition is a dark sky away from light pollution. Consider going to a state or national park, such as the Dade Battlefield Historic State Park in Bushnell, which is planning a Perseid watch event in the wee hours of Aug. 13.

If you can step outside wherever you live, let your eyes adjust to the darkness, put down your phone, lie down on a blanket or lawn chair and then look up.

If you go

Park viewing: Join park staff to look at the early morning sky for the Perseid meteor shower on Aug. 13 from 3-5 a.m. at the Dade Battlefield Historic State Park, 7200 County Road 603, Bushnell. Bring insect repellent, water and a camp chair or blanket. Advance registration is required at DadePrograms@FloridaDEP.gov or 352-793-4781. $3 per vehicle (registration required before arriving).

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