Today (August 12, 2010) is the peak of the annual Perseid meteor shower. These meteors appear to radiate from the constellation Perseus, but you don't need to know how to find Perseus to see them.
After checking the latest weather forecast to be sure the sky won't be too cloudy, choose a site away from city lights with an open view of the sky. Lie back in a sleeping bag or reclining chair and look toward the darkest part of your sky.
Meteors, also known as shooting stars, are the brief streaks of light created when cosmic debris interacts with Earth's atmosphere. The Perseids occur around the same time each year when Earth runs into debris left over from Comet Swift-Tuttle.
If the weather permits, please join Morehead Planetarium and Science Center for our skywatching session Thursday, August 12, 2010, from 9-11 p.m., at Jordan Lake, Ebenezer Church Recreation Area. Any decision to cancel will be posted at the Morehead Web site around 4 p.m. – please check before you head out.
Although before midnight is not the best time to see the most meteors, the ones we do see may be spectacular, traveling long paths over several seconds. (Near the beginning of the session, we'll also view a fairly compact trio of planets – Venus, Mars, Saturn – and the nearby crescent Moon.)
To see the most Perseids, you'll want to go out after midnight, when Perseus is higher in the sky and you're on the leading edge of Earth as it travels through space. If skies are clear, the single best hour will likely be Friday morning, August 13, during the last dark hour before dawn – about 4 to 5 a.m. From a site that's not too light polluted, expect to see up to 60 meteors an hour. Urban stargazers will be lucky to see more than 20.