Catch a shooting star with 2019's summer meteor showers

Perseids 2019: When is the spectacular meteor shower this year? When will Perseids peak?

The breathtaking Perseid meteor shower will light up the night skies with a cosmic display of fireworks but when is the annual meteor shower and when will the Perseid's peak?

The Perseids are one of the most prolific meteor showers of the year, peaking annually in August. The meteor shower is typically active between mid-July and the last week of August. During this period, the odd shooting star will dash across night skies. But on one night, in particular, the meteor shower will peak in intensity, lighting up the night with hundreds of meteors.

When is the Perseid meteor shower this year?

The Perseids are active when the Earth flies through the cosmic trail of the comet Swift–Tuttle. The stellar debris left in the wake of the hurtling space rock slams into our planet’s atmospheres at great speeds, producing streaks of light across the skies. Earth passes through this cosmic minefield between July 17 and August 24 this year. Throughout this period, the number of meteors visible will increase every night until the date of the shower’s peak.

When will the Perseids meteor shower peak?

Astronomers expect the Perseids to peak around mid-August when Earth crosses the centre of Swift–Tuttle’s trail. 

The Royal Observatory Greenwich in London said, in 2019 the Perseid meteor shower is active between 17 July and 24 August, with the number of meteors increasing every night until it reaches a peak in mid-August, after which it will tail off. This year the peak falls on the night of the 12th and before dawn on 13 August.

During the peak, the Observatory said the shower will likely produce about 80 meteors an hour. The peak will be best seen from midnight to about 5.30am when the skies are darkest.

How to best see the Perseid meteor shower?

Meteor-spotting is a game of patience and location-hunting. Meteor showers are best viewed from dark and quiet places away from sources of light pollution like cities and cars. Just give your eyes upwards of 15 minutes to adjust to the dark. Wide-open fields with unobstructed views of the horizon are ideal since they give a clear view of the whole sky at once. The good news is, meteors are incredibly fast, meaning telescope and binoculars will not help you spot them.

The Observatory said, the average speed for a Perseid meteor is 36 miles per second. The air in front of the meteor is squashed and heated to thousands of degrees Celsius. The smaller meteors vaporize and leave behind a bright trail of light. Larger meteors can explode as fireballs. 

Remember to dress warm and pack plenty of snacks and drinks to stay comfortable on the night. Once you are all set, simply lie back and try to take in as much of the sky at once as possible.

Catch a Shooting Star with 2019's Summer Meteor Showers

Anyone gazing at the summer night sky for even a short time is likely to spot a few "shooting stars" darting across the sky.

The best and most beloved meteor display of the summer comes during the second week of August: the annual Perseid shower which, at its peak around the nights of Aug. 11 and 12, is capable of producing anywhere from 50 to 100 fast, bright meteors per hour.

Sadly, this year will be a poor one to watch for the Perseids, chiefly because an almost full moon will greatly interfere with observations. But there are plenty more to watch for. In general, Earth encounters richer meteoric activity during the second half of the year. And you're more likely to see twice as many meteors per hour before dawn than in the evening. This is because we are on the trailing side of Earth during the pre-midnight hours, thanks to our orbital motion through space. So any meteoric particle must have an orbital velocity greater than that of the Earth to catch us.

However, after midnight when we are turned onto Earth's "leading" side, any particle that lies along Earth's orbital path will enter our atmosphere as a meteor. As such objects collide with our atmosphere at speeds of 7 to 45 miles per second (11 to 72 kilometers per second); their energy of motion rapidly dissipates in the form of heat, light, and ionization, creating short-lived streaks of light popularly referred to as falling stars or shooting stars.

Minor league showers

To go along with the Perseids, however, there are a few other minor meteor displays during July and August. These summertime meteors, occasionally flitting across your line of sight, are especially noticeable between mid-July and the third week of August. While the hourly rates from these other meteor streams are just a fraction of the numbers produced by the Perseids, overall they provide a wide variety of meteor colors, speeds, and trajectories. Among these spectacles are:

The Southern Delta Aquarids, which reached their peak around July 28 and can produce faint, medium-speed meteors, with perhaps an average of 10 to 20 per hour streaking from out of the southern part of the sky between midnight and dawn. They are active from July 12 through Aug. 23.

The Alpha Capricornids, which arrive at their maximum a couple of nights later on July 30, is described as slow, bright (occasionally fireball-class), long-trailed meteors. Like the Southern Delta Aquarids, they appear to streak from out of the southern sky, but even at their peak, they number at best only five per hour. The first forerunners of this meteor stream have been sighted as early as July 3 and the last stragglers as late as Aug. 15.

The peak of both of these displays coincides with a thin waning crescent moon, providing little interference for prospective meteor observers.

The Kappa Cygnids, peaking near Aug. 17, has been classified as slow-moving and sometimes brilliant. 
Kappa Cygnid hourly rates are very low, only a few per hour. Unfortunately, a bright waning gibbous moon rises during the mid-to-late evening hours to brighten the sky.

But because there is the possibility of getting a glimpse of a superbright meteor, they are still worth a look. The constellation Cygnus, from where these meteors diverge, appears almost directly overhead around midnight. Like the Southern Delta Aquarids and Alpha Capricornids, the Kappa Cygnids are active for at least a few weeks, from Aug. 3 through Aug. 25.

Back in 2008, Peter Jenniskens of the Carl Sagan Center, SETI Institute, announced that he had identified the probable breakup of a comet from several thousand years ago that may be responsible for the Kappa Cygnids; the asteroid 2008 ED69 may be a fragment from that breakup.

Final thoughts

As meager as the individual hourly rates are with these minor displays, collectively they become strikingly augmented with the Perseids, whose numbers will begin revving up during early August. Indeed, August is Perseid month, and the skywatching is boosted by raising sporadic meteor rates, mild weather overnight, other minor meteor showers, and vacation time for many.

The waxing moon will not become a significant issue for skywatchers until after Aug. 8. Even though bright moonlight will wreak havoc with the 2019 Perseids, there is still a way to avoid that moon and get some dark skies around the time of their peak activity. We'll advise you on how to accomplish this here at early next month, so stay tuned!.

Post a Comment