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The annual Perseid meteor shower is going to be off the hook this year! Due to a rare expected outburst the amount of meteors is estimated to DOUBLE. Usually we get around 60-100 meteors per hour , with the outburst expect up to 200 ! The shower peaks this year on Aug. 11 and 12, with the best viewing after local midnight.

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1. When is the best time to watch?

This year, the best time to watch is this Thursday night/Friday morning after midnight (that’s when your part of the Earth is facing into the oncoming meteoroids and you see more). To simplify terms, anytime between 12 am-5am on the morning of August 12. However, a night before or after will be fine, too. The later you wait in the evening the better, but even a couple of hours after dark will be fine.

2. How many will I see, and how often?

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The Perseids generally average about 60–100 meteors per hour. However, this year due to the expected Perseid outburst you can expect double that — up to 200 meteors per hour! Why? Astronomers believe the planet Jupiter has shifted the path of comet debris just enough that Earth will plow through the densest area. Whoo – more meteors for us!

Remember, meteors are random, in that you may see three in a row in a few seconds, then nothing for five more minutes.

Also, don’t expect to go outside and see tons of meteors right away. Your eyes take a few minutes to adjust to the darkness (it takes about a half hour to get fully adapted) so give it a few after going out. Patience sky-watchers.

3. Do I need a telescope or binoculars? A camera?

Nope, nope, and….. nope! Meteors zip across the sky from random spots, so you want to see as much sky as possible. A telescope only lets you see a tiny part of the sky at once. Bent over an eyepiece, you’re likely to miss everything. It’s like trying to watch fireworks through a soda straw.

Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.

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4. How come this happens every year? Where do the Perseids come from?

The Perseids are debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the Sun every 133 years. When it gets close to the Sun, the heat from our star turns the ices in the comet into gas, forming the long tail. Small bits of rocky debris also slough off and trail behind the comet. When the Earth plows into these, they burn up in our atmosphere to form the shower.

(Teaching Stars) The orbit of the Swift-Tuttle comet.
(Teaching Stars)
The orbit of the Swift-Tuttle comet.

5. Does it need to be a totally dark sky?

Being away from city lights helps a lot. Many meteors are fainter and get washed out if the sky is bright from light pollution. However, I’ve been able to enjoy the Perseid meteor shower for years in Victoria, so incredibly dark skies aren’t critical. Just nice.

BONUS! Check out this awesome light pollution map to find the best viewing spots in Victoria.

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5.I hate outside, can’t I just live-steam this like Cochella?

NASA will be live-streaming the shower! So you can cozy up in your fluffiest duvet and watch the show from the comfort of indoors.

Comfy!
Comfy!
David Kingham / Flickr A composite of 23 images during the 2012 Perseids in Wyoming.
David Kingham / Flickr
A composite of 23 images during the 2012 Perseids in Wyoming.

Happy sky watching!

-Kirsten

w/ information from Vox.com and Slate.

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