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  • Writer's pictureAndy Cohen

Catch a Perseid this Sunday morning

Updated: Nov 7, 2021

Reposted with thanks from Mark Davis, Lowcountry Stargazers

"Each July and August the Earth encounters debris left behind from Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, the parent of the annual Perseid meteor shower. This shower is probably the most popular of the year as it is active during the summer months in the northern hemisphere. The number of meteors we see each year varies mainly because of the changing lunar phase. A bright moon above the horizon will severely reduce the number of meteors seen, as happened last year. This year though, conditions are very favorable with new moon occurring just two days before the shower peak.

When is the best time to watch? During the evening hours before midnight, the radiant (the area of sky where the Perseids seem to come from) is low in the north. This is the worst time to observe as most of the activity is not in view. Perseids you do see at this time are likely to be "earthgrazers" that just skim the upper regions of the atmosphere. While less in number, they are often spectacular, traveling far greater distances across the sky and reaching brighter peak magnitudes. Look for earthgrazers low in the east and west, with an occasional once passing higher overhead.

For sheer numbers of Perseids per hour, you will have to lose some sleep and observe after midnight. The reason for this is as the morning progresses, the radiant gets higher and higher, bringing more meteors into your view. These meteors however, while more numerous, will also be shorter and last only a few tenths of a second. If you can stay awake long enough, you will most likely see the greatest number of Perseids from 3:00 a.m. until dawn.

The strongest Perseid rates this year are expected to occur on Sunday night/Monday morning August 12/13, when the Earth is closest to the orbit of comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. Observe from a dark location, and aim your view about halfway up the sky. I would suggest you not observe toward the radiant, but perhaps toward the south.

Weather permitting, I will be observing from Johns Island County Park (Mullet Hall) and invite others to join me. I can be reached by email or telephone. For more information on the Perseids, see the links below.

Mark Davis 843-343-9043

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