This year the ability to view the Perseid meteor showering is getting some cooperation from the moon. Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights the moon will be in the waning crescent phase meaning it is getting a bit smaller with time. When the moon is full, it is very difficult to see a good meteor shower because of all the added light. The smaller the moon, the less light and we have a very small moon this weekend. Of course, the moon's phase won't matter if it's cloudy where you are viewing the annual meteor shower. While computer models can't predict the weather with 100% accuracy, I can give you an idea of what the weather and sky condition will be the next few nights. If you follow me on Twitter, send me a tweet for a personal forecast at @growingwisdom and check out my latest videos at GrowingWisdom.com I think some of the best viewing will be in the Ohio valley and the west. I might have to drive quite far to get clear skies this year.
The series of maps below will help you know if the sky will be clear the next three nights. The first two maps show various station plots across the country. On each plot, the top number is the temperature and bottom number is your dew point. (click the map to enlarge) The circle represents the sky condition and for the meteor shower is the most important forecast variable. If the circle is filled in black, your area is forecast to be cloudy. If the circle is white, then your area is forecast to be clear. The other line coming out of the circle is the wind. The long line points to where the wind is coming from. The smaller lines coming off the big line to the right represent the wind speed, each line is 10kts. The third map below shows the predicted moisture at the level clouds form. This map is valid for Saturday evening and gives a good idea of who is going to have the best viewing that night. The closer to the darker pink/purple areas you are the drier the air. If your area is colored in light blue, that mean the air will have a lot of moisture and clouds. (the other map isn't available yet for three days away).
Click on the images for a larger size.
We often hear about a meteor shower occurring on one or two nights. The reality is that these shows begin way before they peak. This week the Perseid's are at their maximum on the night of the 11th and early morning of the 12th. You will, if it's clear and you get away from light pollution, be able to see shooting stars tonight and through the weekend. These pieces of debris are hurling trough space at 37 miles per second or about 133,200 miles per hour. At this speed they could cross the entire country in under 2 minutes. Not all meteors travel at the same speed. A fast meteor could go from the earth to the moon in about a minute and a half. That isn't as fast as the speed of light of course. If someone turned on a light on the moon you would see it a second and a half later here on earth.
Saturday and Sunday nights the moon will be in a waning crescent phase, therefore moonlight won't hamper viewing. The meteors tend to streak across the sky, but you will want to look toward the Perseus constellation, which is in the northeast part of the sky and forms an inverted "Y" shape. (see image below) In the southern hemisphere you will have to look just above the northern horizon to see the meteors.
What to expect
If you are watching the show with kids you can have them try to find a satellite while waiting for a meteor. Satellites are quite easy to spot as they look like shooting stars but move across the sky at a much slower speeds. It can take a minute or more for a satellite to cross your field of view. I use the opportunity to talk about the earth, orbits and other planets to children during these events. On Saturday the 11th, leading into the 12th, expect about 25-50 meteors per hour. You won't see the meteors evenly spread out over time. You may see nothing for five minutes and then four or more in a row a minute later. Lie on a blanket and look up rather than stand. If you stand with your neck tilted up, you will have neck issues in the morning. On Sunday night, heading into the morning of the 13th there will be fewer meteors per hour, but still a nice show. The best time to see this will be around 2AM-3AM, but if you don't want to wait till then it's still worthwhile once it gets dark.
From mid-August through until October (November for some plants) is perfect for planting. This is the time of year you can see where you have some gaps in the garden that need filling. Also start thinking about bulbs that might need to be ordered now.
Below is a video on a great plant I put in the garden last year at this time. The plants are looking terrific this year and had a great spring bloom.
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