31 July 2017

Perseid Meteor Shower 2017

The annual Perseid Meteor Shower will peak August 11 - 13, offering patient viewers a chance to see 10s or even 100s of meteors per hour if you view from a dark location. The Perseid shower is one of the year's best meteor showers, reliably delivering the twinkling and elusive flits of light that dash across the sky in sheer silence, sometimes in the north, south, east or west. Meteor showers are not for the impatient, but rather require a viewer to relax and enjoy the glorious summer night sky and simply stare up and wait while the Earth plunges through a rich meteor stream. From your location on the planet you need to simply have a big view (the more unobstructed, the better) and somewhat or very dark skies, and then some degree of focus on .... well ... nothing. Just by looking up and gazing, you will see the meteors.

Meteor Shower
Meteors have a delightful and tantalising way of appearing with a burst of light, moving at incredible speed for maybe 1/4 or 1/2 second, and then vaporising and flickering out as fast as they arrived. During a shower like the Perseids, you can rest assured that they are happening all around you all the time but the majority are just too small and too faint for our eyes to perceive. And you can also rest assured that many more are happening outside of your line of sight, as they may appear behind you or to your left or right and elude detection. So one of my favourite ways to see a meteor shower is with a group where you have many pairs of eyes on the sky and many reports of 'ooh, look at that' or 'wow, that was great' happening all around you. It is a wonderful communal activity that keeps the momentum strong since meteor showers, when viewed alone, can go for many minutes without producing anything. Teamwork ensures that no meteor is left unseen. So if you have a chance, join a group (or just find a few friends) who will be staying up to see what they can see.

The Perseids this year will be competing with moonlight each night. In San Francisco, the waxing gibbous moon rises at 10:37 pm on Friday 11th, 11:12 pm on Saturday 12th, and 11:49 pm on Sunday 13th. So take in the view while the moon is below the horizon and enjoy a few hours of meteors each evening. Meteor showers tend to get better as the night goes on, so Saturday and Sunday offer better chances of seeing meteors than Friday. Best of luck, enjoy, and have fun!