Get ready sky watchers ... it’s meteor shower time!
Two meteor showers are converging this week, and you don’t want to miss the show.
Monday evening marks the peak of the Delta Aquariids, which can produce up to 20 meteors per hour. Astronomers are still not sure which comet is responsible for the trail of orbiting debris and dust that causes the shower, but regardless, you’ll get the best view of the meteors after midnight.
The annual Perseid meteor shower is also starting to be visible this week. The Perseid meteor shower is one of the most prolific of the annual showers, delivering as many as 100 meteors an hour at its peak. The visual show occurs as the Earth passes through the dust stream left in the wake of comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. The bits of dust burn up in our atmosphere, causing what looks like shooting stars to streak across the sky.
The Perseids peak around Aug. 12 and Aug. 13, according to astronomers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, but the moon will be full at that time, and its light will outshine most of the meteors. So, if you want to catch the Perseids, now is your moment. There is just the barest sliver of a moon Monday night, leaving the sky nice and dark for meteor viewing.
The good news is the meteor show should be pretty good for most of the week as the Earth moves deeper into the debris stream of comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. Also, the Delta Aquariids do not have a sharp peak like some other showers, and we should be seeing meteors from that shower continuing through the end of next month.
The best way to see meteors is to get as far away from ambient city lights as possible to the darkest sky you can find. Then lie back, and start staring at the sky. It takes about 20 minutes for your eyes to get used to the darkness and during that time you be able to see more and more stars.
Astronomers recommend avoiding looking at a cellphone while sky watching. Even a quick glance at a bright screen can undo a lot of the adjusting your eyes have done.
If you prefer to do your sky-watching on a computer screen, the website Slooh.com will be live streaming views of the meteor shower from its telescope in the Canary Islands beginning at 7 p.m.
Good luck seeing meteors and happy sky watching!