RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – After a storm system sweeps through the Commonwealth Friday through Sunday, drier air should move into the Mid-Atlantic along with decreasing cloud-cover Sunday from west to east.
This should hopefully make for good viewing of the popular annual August Perseid meteor shower for central Virginia by Sunday night. The shower peaks the nights of August 11 through August 13 (Saturday through Monday).
If you have good visibility (low man-made light and clear skies), you can see as many as 50 to 80 meteors per hour during this peak of the shower, which generally begins in late July as Earth enters the stream of debris left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle. Look northeast after sunset each evening toward the constellation Perseus (from which the meteors seem to appear from our perspective on Earth), and scan the skies for streaks of light.
This NASA sky map shows the location in the northern sky where the Perseid meteor shower will appear to radiate from in 2012. The Perseid meteor shower peaks every August and appears to fly out of the constellation Perseus. CREDIT: NASA/JPL
The meteor shower dwindles rapidly by August 15, with only a handful of meteors possibly visible. Earth exits the debris field, and this meteor shower ends, likely by August 22.
Last year, NASA astronaut Ron Garan captured this photo of a Perseid meteor entering Earth’s atmosphere.
Astronaut Ron Garan, Expedition 28 flight engineer, tweeted this image from the International Space Station on Aug. 14, 2011 with the following caption: “What a ‘Shooting Star’ looks like from space, taken yesterday during Perseid Meteor Shower.” The image was photographed from the orbiting complex on Aug. 13 when it was over an area of China approximately 400 kilometers to the northwest of Beijing. The rare photo opportunity came as no surprise since the Perseid Meteor Shower occurs every year in August. The meteors are particles that originate from the comet Swift-Tuttle along its orbital path; the comet’s orbit is close enough for these particles to be swept up by the Earth’s gravitational field each year. Green and dim yellow airglow appears as thin layers visible above the limb of the Earth, extending from image left to upper image right. Atoms and molecules above 50 kilometers in the atmosphere are excited by sunlight during the day, and then release this energy at night producing primarily green light observable from orbit. The sun is low on the horizon as it appears near part of one of the station’s solar panel arrays at image upper right. IMAGE: NASA
CLICK HERE to learn more about comets from NASA JPL.