The most prominent meteor shower of the year will peak for viewing this weekend, with 50 meteors per hour streaking across the sky as part of the August Perseid. On Saturday, Aug. 11, the shower coincides with a new moon, meaning the streaking lights will be more easily viewed against a dark sky.
In a viewing spot away from urban lights, the celestial show will be visible to the naked eye.
Meteor showers that occur regularly happen when the earth travels through a debris field on its rotation. The Perseid occurs around August when the debris of the Comet Swift-Tuttle, ignites upon contact with Earth’s atmosphere, burning at a temperature of thousands of degrees.
Sunday, Aug. 12, is the peak time to view the shower, but “shooting stars” will be visible on the nights leading up to and following the date.
According to NASA’s “Watch the Skies” blog, the best time for viewing is after 2 a.m. when the meteors per hour will be densest.
Luckily for those unwilling or unable to stargaze that late in the night, anytime from 9 p.m. onward should yield results.
NASA recommends giving the eyes up to 30 minutes to adjust to the dark in order to see the most meteors. Looking at a phone screen during that time can make it more difficult for the eyes to adjust.
NASA Meteor Watch will be live streaming on Saturday and Sunday nights, an option that may be helpful if bad weather strikes Maryland. They will start broadcasting at 9 p.m. and continue until very early morning.
Astronomy.com will broadcast on Sunday night beginning at 7 p.m. Other livestreams are available as well.
Astronomy blogger and meteorologist for AccuWeather Dave Samuhel said near Westminster, “unfortunately it looks like we’ll be dealing with a lot of clouds,” but there will be clear patches especially in the later hours when meteor viewing is best.
Saturday night holds the best chance for clear patches, with more cloud cover expected Sunday night.
In most areas, thunderstorms are expected to hit in the afternoon and later dissipate, though some areas may see rainfall into the evening.
“I wouldn’t throw in the towel yet for viewing the meteor show,” Samuhel said. When there are clear patches, “you don’t have to wait too long to see meteors.”
For more space-centered activity this weekend, the Westminster Astronomical Society will host two indoor planetarium shows Saturday, at Bear Branch Nature Center, 300 John Owings Road, Westminster.
The junior show for children will be from 11 to 11:45 a.m. at $5 per person. The evening show will be from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Cost is $6 per person and recommended for ages 8 to adult. If weather permits, guests will be able to look through the observatory following the show. Call 410-386-2103 to reserve spots.