How to watch the Perseid Meteor Shower in the Northwest this weekend
The Perseid Meteor Shower is set to light up the night sky this weekend. But living in the Northwest means that many local elements are potentially conspiring against our view, including overcast skies, a bright moon, and smoke from surrounding wildfires.
Fortunately, none of these should be a major issue this year. The smoke is expected to clear, slightly, by Saturday. And while some pesky clouds will be around on Friday and Saturday, forecasts show a return to clear skies on Sunday and Monday. And there’s no need to worry about an overly bright moon.
“It will be a crescent, which means it will set before the Perseid show gets underway after midnight,” NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke told Space.com. “The moon is very favorable for the Perseids this year, and that’ll make the Perseids probably the best shower of 2018 for people who want to go out and view it.”
All you’ll really need to do is crane your head upwards. The best time to see the meteor shower’s peak locally is late Sunday night / very early Monday morning. As always, it’s best to get away from light pollution and head far away from city centers.
But don’t just peak up quickly and then go home. Let your eyes adjust to the dark for about 30 minutes to get the fullest experience.
This year you’ll be able to see up to 60-80 meteors per hour — for about one meteor per minute — up from last year’s rate of 40-50 (in case anyone is counting). Along with the showers, there’s also a chance stargazers will catch a view of the Milky Way stretching from the south, along with Saturn and Mars. Telling which is which shouldn’t be an issue.
What is the Perseid Meteor Shower?
The Perseid Meteor Shower is caused by the dust and debris trailing the Swift-Tuttle comet, which orbits the sun approximately every 133 years. The comet is the largest object known to repeatedly careen by Earth, with a nucleus of 16 miles wide. Since the Earth passes through that trail of comet detritus every year, we get a pretty little show.
The meteors strike our atmosphere at around 134,000 miles per hour and create vivid streaks of light when they burn up. When one makes it all the way down to the ground without burning up, they become known as “meteorites.”
You won’t have to worry about one bonking you on the head — most of the meteors in the Perseid shower are far too small for that.