Perseid Meteor Shower Upstaged By Full Moon?

By Nikki Garrett Metzger

High Desert Daily

(Victor Valley) – Perseid meteor shower reaches its annual peak this weekend.  However, the normally perfect viewing conditions of clear, dark skies that can be found in parts of the Victor Valley will not provide a reprieve from the full moon.

David Meyer, President of the High Desert Astronomical Society and Associate Professor of Astronomy at Victor Valley College, explained, “The peak of the meteor shower is on the morning of the 13th. But the full moon is going to make the sky so bright that you won’t be able to see a lot of the meteors because they can be very faint.”

“The origin of the shower is the Comet Swift-Tuttle, which is a periodic comet.  A periodic comet with a period of 130 years, it was last observed in the inner solar system in 1992,” said Meyers.  “Comets are mostly ice, and when they come close to the sun they melt somewhat.  The particles of rock and so forth that are mixed in with the ice are then released, and the comet leaves that behind in its orbit. This scattering of dust particles is what the earth passes through once a year in its orbit around the sun.”

The Perseids get their name because they originally appeared to radiate from a point in the constellation Perseus.

“The best time to observe a meteor shower is early in the morning, after midnight, because that’s when our side of the earth is rotated around and we’re facing in the direction that the earth is traveling,” said Meyer. “So the dust particles of the shower are coming right at us from the constellation of Perseus.  But this year the moon will be wiping out most of them.”

Advice from the experts says that the best way to watch the meteor shower is, contrary to popular opinion, look away from the radiant, as the longest and brightest meteors will be about 90 degrees away. The radiant is actually located now in the constellation Cassiopeia, not Perseus, with its characteristic “W” shape. Keep the bright moon at your back and look mainly to the northwest, below the summer triangle of Vega, Deneb, and Altair.

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