SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) — If you enjoy star-gazing, and meteor showers in particular, now is the time.
NASA says the peak in mid-August, is likely to be one of the most impressive chances to catch the annual Perseids meteor event for several years.
The experts said the night of Aug. 11 starts peak viewing, especially for those who can get to dark sky areas and let their eyes adjust. The crescent moon sets relatively early, leaving peak viewing hours from midnight until dawn.
Perseid meteor activity (Chart: NASA)
"The night of Aug. 12-13 will be another great opportunity to see the Perseids," NASA said.
This year is probably going to offer better viewing than the next two years as 2022 will feature a full moon during the Perseids' peak and in 2023 there will be a waning crescent high in the sky. NASA recommends finding somewhere comfortable and taking steps to avoid bright lights, light your phone, as much as possible.
And more good news, our 2News weather team says smoke should be light enough in northern Utah that we can see the show.
There are lots of dark places in Utah but there are 18 certified dark sky parks, all around the state, viewable with descriptions and a map at: visitutah.com/places-to-go/dark-sky-parks
Also tonight, like every Wednesday night, the University of Utah, the the Physics Building at 115 South, 1400 East has free a astronomical observatory open at the UofU's Dept. of Physics and Astro, free of cost to the general public throughout the year on Wednesday nights. On Aug. 11 it opens at 9 p.m. There you will see planets and various heavenly objects. It isn't clear if the group will stay late enough for peak meteor viewing.
But you can also go to canyons, desert location or anywhere else you can escape lights from cars and cities. You can try darkskymeter.com/ to gauge how your possible viewing area will be. It has an app, a light pollution atlas and a lot more for you to play with. You can also consult the American Meteor Society.
Being in the dark isn't enough, as it can take your eyes up to 30 minutes to adjust to deep darkness, and that includes light from a phone. After that, in the darkest locations, and Utah has a lot of them, you might spot as many as 40 meteors, what many call shooting stars, each hour. If you live in a city, you still have a chance to see some, but light pollution cuts the appearances down to "only a few every hour," according to NASA.
The meteor shower is named after the constellation Perseus, near Aries and Taurus if that helps, but the constellation can be hard to spot so NASA recommends just looking up toward the north to enjoy the show.
The streaking lights are actually fragments of the comet Swift-Tuttle. It orbits between the Sun and heads out beyond Pluto once every 133 years. Earth moves through the path of the comet every year and humans looking up simply see the debris left behind.
In case you want to know what else is in August's skies, here is what's up from Jet Propulsion Laboratory.