Perseid Meteor shower 2020: When, where and how to see it

The bright Perseids are perhaps the most popular meteor shower of the year. But if the last-quarter moon that will appear during the shower this year is especially bright, they will be washed out. Spectators can expect to see the greatest number of meteors during the shower’s peak on the morning of August 12. Years without moonlight see higher rates of meteors per hour, and in outburst years, such as in 2016, the rate can be between 150-200 meteors an hour.

Last year, a bright, full moon made things a little bit tricky for skywatchers looking to get a glimpse of the Perseids. So, while the Perseids are rich in bright meteors, the moonlight is going to spoil most of the show. This year, the moon will not get in the way quite as much, but its bright glow could impact your ability to clearly spot the Perseids.

To best see the Perseids, go to the darkest possible location and lean back to observe as much sky as possible directly above you. The best time to look for meteors is in the pre-dawn hours. While the meteors will peak in the morning on August 12, they will also be very visible on August 11 and 13. Even outside of this peak timeframe, you should be able to spot a few meteors between midnight and dawn any morning the week before or after this date.

To see the meteors, look up and to the north.

Those in southern latitudes can look toward the northeast to see more meteors. Skywatchers looking out for the Perseids might also see some stray meteors from the Delta Aquariid meteor shower. Earth will pass through the path of Comet Swift-Tuttle from July 17 to August 24, with the shower’s peak — when Earth passes through the densest, dustiest area — occurring on the morning of August 12.

That means you will see the most meteors in the shortest amount of time near that peak, but you can still catch some action from the famed meteor shower before or after that point. You can see the Perseid meteor shower best in the Northern Hemisphere and down to the mid-southern latitudes, and all you need to catch the show is darkness, somewhere comfortable to sit, and a bit of patience. Comet Swift-Tuttle is the largest object known to repeatedly pass by Earth.

Comet Swift-Tuttle’s nucleus is about 16 miles wide. It last passed nearby Earth during its orbit around the sun in 1992, and the next time will be in 2126. But it will not be forgotten in the meantime, because Earth passes through the dust and debris it leaves behind every year, creating the annual Perseid meteor shower. When you sit back to watch a meteor shower, you are actually seeing the pieces of comet debris heat up as they enter the atmosphere and burn up in a bright burst of light, streaking a vivid path across the sky as they travel at 37 miles per second.

When they are in space, the pieces of debris are called “meteoroids”, but when they reach Earth’s atmosphere, they are designated as “meteors”.

If a piece makes it all the way down to Earth without burning up, it graduates to “meteorite”. Most of the meteors in the Perseids are much too small for that, they are about the size of a grain of sand. The key to seeing a meteor shower is to take in as much sky as possible. Go to a dark area, in the suburbs or countryside, and prepare to sit outside for a few hours.

It takes about 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark, and the longer you wait outside, the more you will see. A rate of 60-70 meteors per hour, for instance, means around one meteor per minute, including faint streaks along with bright, fireball-generating ones. Some skywatchers plan to camp out to see the Perseid meteor shower, but at the very least, viewers should bring something comfortable to sit on, some snacks, and some bug spray.

Then, just relax and look upward for the celestial show. Although they appear big from Earth, the Perseid meteors are actually tiny pieces of particles from the tail of the Comet Swift-Tuttle. The comet zips around the sun and leaves a trail of particles, and every August our planet moves through the particles. That is why the best time to view the Perseid shower is after midnight till dawn.

Those hours are perfect for seeing the most shooting stars, and possibly even some bigger and brighter meteors, called fireballs.

Nevertheless, the view ought to be much better than in 2015, when the moon was very near its complete phase. Professionals say you can still catch a good amount of shooting stars and even some brighter fireballs if you find a dark area and look up during the late-night and early-morning hours. Skywatchers on Earth can see some of the particles, which looks like shooting stars.

Since the Earth turns, the bulk of our world misses the majority of the comet debris before midnight. Good timing likewise helps. It is almost time for the Perseid meteor to reach its peak, placing on what is normally the very best shower of the year. The August moon will be a little past its last quarter stage just when the Perseid meteor shower will be peaking.

As a result, the moonlight will make it harder to see all those shooting stars, as many as 60 per hour. You can see the Perseids from nearly anywhere, however experts say you increase your chances if you go to a park or open area in a rural location, as far as possible from intense city lights and street lights. It will still be possible to see some Perseid meteors for 10 days after the peak.

While it will be at minimized numbers, there will be less moonlight to illuminate the sky, with the moon waning each night up till August 17, when there will be moon-free skies all night long.

Despite the fact that the 2020 Perseids will be at its best on Tuesday, August 11 and Wednesday, August 12, it is currently producing enough meteors to make it rewarding to do some early stargazing. The view might still be respectable as late as Wednesday morning, late Wednesday night, and early Thursday morning, as long as the sky is clear. The best time to see any meteor shower is midnight.

That is when the part of the Earth that you are on is moving into the stream of meteors. It is best to wait till after midnight to look for the Perseids, ideally during the pre-dawn hours although some meteors could be visible as early as 10 p.m. You do not require a telescope or field glasses, just your eyes. It is early August, which suggests the annual Perseid meteor shower is active and about ready to peak.

The Perseids are among the best, brightest batches of shooting stars, and it feels like we might use them now especially to include a little marvel and interruption into these quite depressing times. This well-known shower comes around this time every year as the Earth wanders through a debris cloud left by the huge comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. Little bits of dust, pebbles, and other cosmic sediment slam into our environment, burning up into short, bright streaks, and even the periodic full-blown fireball spotting across the night sky.

In 2020, the Perseids are expected to peak on August 11 and 12, when the moon must be a little less than half complete.

The popularity of the shower is a combination of the fact that it is one of the strongest, with as much as 100 visible meteors per hour typically, and its accompanying warm summer nights in the northern hemisphere. The subsiding moon is likely to rinse numerous otherwise noticeable meteors, however that still leaves plenty that needs to be simple to see if you do a little planning. You can also attempt to shut out the moon by locating yourself next to a tree or building that keeps some of that moonlight out of your retinas.

The moon will begin to completely disappear after mid-month, and although the Perseids will be past their prime, they will still be active and visible. As soon as you have chosen on the ideal time and a place with minimal light disturbance and a large view of the sky, just lie back, let your eyes relax, and watch. It can take about 20 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark, so be sure to be patient.

It does not really matter where in the sky you look, so long as you have a broad view. That said, the Perseids will appear to radiate out from the constellation of Perseus, the Hero. If you desire to practice to be a sophisticated meteor spotter, locate Perseus and try focusing there while you watch. Then attempt simply searching without focusing anywhere.

See if you notice a difference.

We are still dealing with the unpredictability of nature, so outcomes will differ. Arguably the best part of the Perseids each year are the beautiful pictures we receive from skilled astrophotographers investing long nights outside. In general, a great technique is to head out to look for the Perseids as late in the night as possible, but still prior to moonrise at your location.

In New York, for example, you would want to be as far away from all that light contamination as possible by about 11 p.m. on Tuesday evening due to the fact that the moon will rise about an hour later at 12:08 a.m. on Wednesday.

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