LOS ANGELES, CA (FOX 11) - Get ready stargazers!
Astronomers are expecting an outburst of Perseid meteors, with the peak viewing times being late Thursday night August 11th into Friday morning, August 12th. This outburst may show up to 200 meteors per hour, which is double the usual rate. NASA says there are more meteors than usual this year because Jupiter's gravity has tugged some streams of comet material closer to Earth.
Once the moon sets Thursday night/Friday morning at 1:08am PT, start to look up in the northeast direction towards the constellation Perseus, the stars Capella and Aldebara, and the Pleiades star cluster. The meteors will radiate from Perseus.
What causes this meteor shower every year? It's because the Earth will collide with material coming from the ancient Comet Swift-Tuttle. That comet orbits the sun every 133 years, leaving behind a trail of particles as it goes. Most of those particles have been around for a thousand years. According to NASA, when Earth crosses paths with Swift-Tuttle's debris, specks of comet hit the atmosphere and disintegrates in flashes of light. The meteors are called Perseids because they seem to fly out the constellation Perseus.
How to prepare for viewing meteor showers: If you live anywhere near a major metropolitan city, drive to the nearest darkest place you can find, avoid looking at headlights or any lights at all for 30 - 45 minutes so your eyes can get adjusted to the darkness. Some viewers may carry a light that emits a red color, which allows them to see but has the least impact on disturbing your night vision.
If you can't get out to a dark area, or if clouds are in the way, you can also watch online through NASA MSFC's Ustream channel here. We've also embedded the live feed below:
While you're out looking at the night sky, Saturn, Mars and our moon are very close to each other as seen from Earth. Mars will be the bright red object just below the moon, and the fainter Saturn will be located just below and to the left of the Moon, forming a triangle between the Moon and Mars.
While looking for meteors, check out the Andromeda Galaxy near Cassiopeia - north of where the meteors will radiate. Even though it's 2.5 million light years from Earth, the Andromeda Galaxy is the nearest galaxy to ours and is a very faint cluster of a trillion stars, at least twice the number of stars in our own galaxy. There's also the Double Cluster near the constellation Cassiopeia as well.
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