Meteor shower to light up the sky this week

Published: Aug. 10, 2015 at 1:31 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 7, 2015 at 1:31 PM CDT
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TENNESSEE VALLEY (WAFF) - Every year, from around July 17 to Aug. 24, our planet Earth crosses the orbital path of Comet Swift-Tuttle, the parent of the Perseid meteor shower.

Debris from the comet litters the comet's orbit, but we don't really get into the thick of the comet rubble until after the first week of August. Year after year, the Perseid meteor shower ranks as one of the best. So while you may have seen a stray meteor or two in the previous days, the peak days are the early mornings of Tuesday (8/11), Wednesday (8/12), and Thursday (8/14) of this week, when up to 100 meteors per hour are possible.

This year, we have two things working in the Tennessee Valley's favor to make for a great viewing.

The waning crescent moon comes up shortly before sunrise, so if you go away from city lights, you're guaranteed a dark sky for the viewing.

Although Tuesday morning will likely be cloudy, a cold front that night will bring in very comfortable sky gazing conditions and clear the sky for Wednesday and Thursday mornings.

The best viewing times are between midnight and dawn. If you aren't a nightowl or early bird, don't rule out the early evening, which is when you could catch an earthgrazer – a long, slow, colorful meteor traveling horizontally across the evening sky. Earthgrazer meteors are rare but most exciting and memorable, if you happen to spot one. Perseid earthgrazers can only appear at early to mid-evening, when the radiant point of the shower is close to the horizon.

For optimal viewing for the Tennessee Valley—

WHEN:
Wednesday and Thursday mornings from midnight to dawn

WHERE:
You need to head to a rural area, away from city lights.  If you can't leave the city or suburbs, find an area well away from city or street lights. Big Spring Park is a great viewing spot.

HOW:
Lie down on a blanket and let your eyes adjust.  After 10-20 minutes,  you'll start to notice your eyes are seeing more stars. Be patient!

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