One of the most reliable meteor showers of the year will peak on August 12. That’s when Earth will collide with a stream of particles left behind by comet Swift-Tuttle. These particles, which range in size from sand grains to pebbles, will hit Earth’s upper atmosphere at speeds of 130,000 miles per hour and vaporize 50 miles above our heads. As they burn up, they produce the slivers of light streaking across the sky that we call the Perseid Meteor Shower.
Earth passes through this particle stream every year in August. This year the peak of the Perseid meteor shower occurs on August 12 at 6 a.m. MDT. The best time to observe is from about 1:00 to 5:00 a.m. when Utah is facing into the meteor stream. If you cannot observe during those hours, do not despair, some meteors will still be visible as soon the sky is dark on the evening of August 11. Some meteors should also be visible on the evening of August 12. Near the peak, an observer away from city lights might see about 60 meteors per hour. A crescent moon rises about 2:00 a.m. and its light may hide some of the dimmer meteors. Early morning observers can also view the planets Jupiter and Venus in the eastern sky, on either side of the Moon.
Where is the best place to look? Look up. While meteors will appear to originate from the constellation Perseus in the northeast, they will be seen all over the sky.
The most important aspect of observing a meteor shower is to be away from city lights. No equipment is needed to observe, so leave the telescope at home. Meteor showers are best seen with the eyes alone, taking in as much of the sky as possible. However, a reclining lawn chair and mosquito repellant may help make the observing session more comfortable.