This is the time of the year when, due to the temperature outside, we look forward to every evening and night. The pleasant coolness gives a little respite from the heat, and the night sky is illuminated by numerous falling stars.
If you’ve never seen a shooting star before, mid-August is the best time to complete your palette of experiences with just that. In a few days, the Earth in orbit around the Sun will fly through the stream of debris left behind by Comet 109P / Swift-Tuttle. During the few days that the comet flies through the stream, some of the debris, instead of continuing to continue smoothly around the sun, ends its life in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Falling with great speed into the Earth’s atmosphere, due to friction, pieces of cosmic dust heat up and the air that surrounds them, making it glow. From the surface of the Earth, when we see a falling star, we just see glowing hot vapors evaporated from the surface of meteoroids and ionized air.
Due to the fact that the stream of debris from this particular comet is extremely dense, when looking at the sky near the peak of activity, we can see up to several dozen meteors per hour. This is a real spectacle for every astronomy lover.
Perseids – where to look
While most of the meteors in this swarm come from the Swift-Tuttle comet, the name of the meteor shower comes from the location in the celestial sphere from which all meteors seem to fly.
In the case of the Perseids, this place is … the constellation Perseus. If we line up north-east around midnight, we will face the constellation of Perseus. Above it is the more commonly known and easier to see constellation Cassiopeia (it resembles the huge letter W in the sky).
Slightly below Cassiopeia is the radiant of the Perseid swarm, the place from which all the meteors seem to be flying.
But here’s a small point. We are not staring at the radiant itself, but … in the opposite direction. This way, the meteors will, so to speak, fly overhead. Early after sunset, therefore, it depends on looking west, and when Perseus is quite high in the sky, around midnight, we can look basically in any direction. Convenient, right? However, it is worth choosing one direction and sticking to it. If we try to monitor the entire sky, we may simply miss many meteors.
Perseids 2020 – when to watch
Although the first Perseids appear in July, they are not very numerous. The closer we get to the peak of the swarm’s activity, the more you notice them. In 2020, the peak activity of the Perseid swarm falls on two nights: August 11-12 and August 12-13. This is when it is best to go hunting shooting stars. If we are lucky and the weather is good, we will see up to 100 meteors per hour.
Perseids 2020 – where to watch
If we want to maximize our chances of seeing as many meteors as possible, we must go away from the city lights. If possible, I recommend going outside the city and finding some quiet, dark place from which you cannot see the lights of houses, streets and other objects. In such a place, after our eyesight is initially used to the dark, we can see a lot.
But here are two words of caution. While waiting for the spectacle, do not pass the time looking at the moon in the last quarter, let alone look at the phone. Every glance at the bright screen or the bright face of the Moon spoils the accommodation of the eye, and when you shift your gaze to the blackness of the sky, you will have to get used to it anew. Endure this hour or two without the phone. It will probably be more difficult than spotting shooting stars.
The ideal situation would be if we had somewhere to lie down. Sure, it can be a meadow, some slope, but from experience I can tell you that with a certain weight, the roof of the car is not the best solution.
And already. Good luck!
Perseids 2020: shooting stars in a moment – how, where and when to watch