The annual Perseid Meteor Shower will peak this weekend. But living in the Northwest means that many local elements are potentially conspiring against our view, including overcast skies, a bright moon, and smoke from surrounding wildfires.
Patience is also a virtue, with shooting stars tending to appear in clusters, followed by a lull. The smoke is expected to clear, slightly, by Saturday. "You can look anywhere you want to - even directly overhead".
This weekend will be the best time to view the event with its maximum peak on Sunday night and Monday morning. As always, it's best to get away from light pollution and head far away from city centers. "Peak rates will be just before dawn".
"Relax, be patient, and let your eyes adapt to the darkness", Kelly Beatty, Sky & Telescope senior editor said in a statement.
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Also present in the night sky at this time is Mars, which will hang low in the south east. Telling which is which shouldn't be an issue.
The number will then start to diminish, though higher-than-average meteor activity associated with the Perseids should be visible through August 24. It's all because of the Comet Swift-Tuttle, which zooms close to Earth during its 133-year journey around the sun. There are some comets astronomers have been studying for years and they know they have large clumps along the orbit as opposed to a stream of particles.
"During a meteor shower the Earth collides with that debris and very small pieces burn up in the upper atmosphere creating the show". When one makes it all the way down to the ground without burning up, they become known as "meteorites".
"The Perseids are perhaps the most popular meteor shower because they're a summer watching event when people are often more relaxed, kids don't have to be up early for school, and the weather is so much more accommodating than in the colder fall or winter months", Dr. Jacqueline Faherty, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History, tells TIME.