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article imageNeed a little distraction? Perseid meteor shower is a great show

By Karen Graham     Aug 10, 2020 in Science
A familiar traveler has returned, and it should make for some nice sky-watching this week. The Perseid meteor shower peaks Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
The Perseid meteor shower is the most widely viewed celestial event in the Northern Hemisphere every year in August, and this year, with all that is going on in the world, we need them more than ever to give us a little wonder and distraction.
So if you are not a night-owl, make plans to stay up late on the night of August 11 or wake up really early the morning of August 12. The Perseids are best seen between about 2 a.m. your local time and at dawn.
And NASA scientists want to let sky-watchers know that unfortunately, the Moon phase is in the last quarter at this time, meaning it will mess up the view of the shower peak, reducing the visible meteors from over 60 per hour down to 15-20 per hour.
In this 20 second exposure  a meteor streaks across the sky during the annual Perseid meteor shower ...
In this 20 second exposure, a meteor streaks across the sky during the annual Perseid meteor shower Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015, in Spruce Knob, West Virginia.
NASA/Bill Ingalls
And even if the weather doesn't cooperate, and it has been known to happen, not to worry - NASA is having live broadcast of the meteor shower from a camera at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama - if the weather is cooperating in Alabama.
The live feed will be available at NASA Meteor Watch Facebook starting around 8 p.m. CDT on Aug. 11 and continuing until sunrise on Aug. 12.
How to view the meteor shower
With the Perseids, there is no need for special equipment, other than a lawn chair or blanket to lie on, and a cup of hot chocolate or coffee to sip while you are enjoying the spectacular heavenly fireworks display.
Perseid meteor shower captured during the night from 12th to 13th of August  in 2016  near a lake in...
Perseid meteor shower captured during the night from 12th to 13th of August, in 2016, near a lake in my home country Lithuania.
Arnas Goldberg
Pick a spot to observe the meteors that is away from bright lights. If the moon is already out, try to find a spot that creates a shadow and lie in the shadow. Don't use binoculars or a telescope because they have small fields of view. Just use your eyes. Meteors can usually be seen all over the sky so don’t worry about looking in any particular direction.
An important reminder from the pros at NASA - Be sure to let your eyes adjust to the darkness, for at least 30 minutes. And please, leave your phone in the house or car, if you had to travel away from the lights.
And just so you know - there is a fake news story circulating on social media that says this year’s Perseids will be the “brightest shower in recorded human history,” lighting up the night sky and even having some meteors visible during the day. NASA says they wish it were true, but it's never going to hasppen.
Direction of the perseids in the night sky
Direction of the perseids in the night sky
A little background on the Perseids
The Perseids are a prolific meteor shower that shows up every year as the Earth drifts through a debris cloud left behind by the giant comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. The meteors are called the Perseids because the point from which they appear to hail (called the radiant) lies in the constellation Perseus.
In Greek mythology, Perseus was the son of Danaë, who was sent by King Polydectes to bring the head of Medusa the Gorgon—whose visage caused all who gazed upon her to turn to stone.
In August 2015  astronaut Scott Kelly posted this photo of the Perseid meteor shower taken from the ...
In August 2015, astronaut Scott Kelly posted this photo of the Perseid meteor shower taken from the International Space Station on Instagram with the caption, "Space weather forecast from @ISS: Moonless with a chance of Perseid meteors!
NASA/Astronaut Scott Kelly
In 1835, Adolphe Quetelet identified the shower as emanating from the constellation Perseus. In 1866, after the perihelion passage of Swift-Tuttle in 1862, the Italian astronomer Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli discovered the link between meteor showers and comets.
In his song "Rocky Mountain High", American singer-songwriter John Denver refers to his experience watching the Perseid meteor shower during a family camping trip in the mountains near Aspen, Colorado, with the chorus lyric, "I've seen it raining fire in the sky."
More about Perseid meteor shower, every year in August, 1oo per hour, giant comet 109PSwiftTuttle, constellation of Perseus
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