Every year the Perseid meteor shower is one of the highlights of summer stargazing. It started about a week ago and will peak Aug. 11-13.
These shooting stars are debris left by the passing Swift-Tuttle comet burning in the Earth’s atmosphere. The Perseids are known for bright, frequent meteor sightings.
Jean Creighton is Lake Effect's astronomy contributor and the director of UW-Milwaukee’s Manfred Olson Planetarium. She begins by explaining why the shower is named Perseid and how that name can be misleading:
“[The Perseid meteor shower] seems to radiate from the direction of the Perseus constellation. That does not mean that the best thing to do is to look at the constellation,” she says.
Now that you know where not to look, Creighton has a few tips on how best to watch the meteor shower:
- Find the largest horizon. The more sky you can see gives you a better chance of seeing a shooting star.
- Bad weather one night won’t ruin the entire peak, so come back the next night and try again.
- Bring a chair or a blanket because standing and craning your neck gets uncomfortable.
- Don’t give up after five minutes. Give yourself about an hour and you should see a few shooting stars.