© Jacek Halicki 2016. Perseid meteor seen in 2016 from Poland.

Perseid meteor shower

Dominic Ford, Editor
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Pittsburg
The sky at

The Perseid meteor shower will reach its maximum rate of activity on 13 August 2018. Some shooting stars associated with the shower are expected to be visible each night from 23 July to 20 August.

Annual meteor showers arise when the Earth passes through streams of debris left behind by comets and asteroids. As pebble-sized pieces of debris collide with the Earth, they burn up at an altitude of around 70 to 100 km, appearing as shooting stars.

By determining the speed and direction at which the meteors impact the Earth, it is possible to work out the path of the stream through the Solar System and identify the body responsible for creating it. The parent body responsible for creating the Perseid shower is 109P/Swift–Tuttle.

Observing prospects

The maximum rate of meteors expected to be visible is around 80 per hour (ZHR). However, this assumes a perfectly dark sky and that the radiant of the meteor shower is directly overhead. In practice, the number of meteors you are likely to see is lower than this, and can be calculated from the ZHR formula.

From Pittsburg (click to change), the radiant of the shower will appear 23° above your north-eastern horizon at midnight. This means you are likely to see only around 32 meteors per hour, since the radiant will be low in the sky, reducing the chance of seeing meteors.

The radiant of the Perseid meteor shower is at around right ascension 03h00m, declination 58°N, as shown by the green cross on the planetarium above. All of the meteors will appear to be travelling directly outward from this point, as indicated by the white lines drawn above.

The Moon will be 2 days old at the time of peak activity, presenting minimal interference.

To see the most meteors, the best place to look is not directly at the radiant itself, but at any dark patch of sky which is around 30–40° away from it. It is at a distance of around this distance from the radiant that meteors will show reasonably long trails without being too spread out.

The sky on 13 August 2018
Sunrise
06:32
Sunset
20:13
Twilight ends
21:50
Twilight begins
04:54

2-day old moon
Waxing Crescent

4%

2 days old

Planets
Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 06:03 12:47 19:30
Venus 10:20 16:12 22:04
Moon 09:14 15:36 21:58
Mars 19:27 00:06 04:39
Jupiter 13:25 18:39 23:54
Saturn 17:11 22:00 02:53
All times shown in CDT.

Source

The Handbook of the British Astronomical Association.

Image credit

© Jacek Halicki 2016. Perseid meteor seen in 2016 from Poland.

Pittsburg

Latitude:
Longitude:
Timezone:

37.41°N
94.70°W
CDT

Color scheme