One of the best nighttime shows of the year, the Perseids meteor shower, should delight stargazers over several nights beginning this weekend.
Up to 50 to 60 meteors per hour can be seen in the atmosphere at the Perseids' peak, which this year will be Sunday through Tuesday, according to David Kriegler of the University of Nebraska at Omaha physics department.
Scientists from NASA and elsewhere predict prime viewing time for the “shooting stars” to begin late Saturday into early Sunday morning, then nightly into early next week.
The meteors, which have been observed for at least 2,000 years, appear to fall from the constellation Perseus, but are actually leftover debris from comet Swift-Tuttle. They recur each year when Earth passes through the comet's debris trail.
Some Perseid meteors could have been spotted in late July, experts say, and may be seen through Aug. 22.
“This is considered the second best shower of the year,” Kriegler said.
The top dog of meteor showers is still a few months away — the Geminids in mid-December.
The best way to observe any meteor shower is to find a dark place outside with as little light pollution as possible. Give your eyes at least 10 minutes to adjust. Look straight up, and be patient.
“They're best observed after midnight, as the Earth runs into the shower and they (meteors) burn up at 40 to 50 miles per second,” Kriegler said.
The near last quarter-moon also will be in the night sky but shouldn't cause too much interference. Last summer, a bright moon spoiled the shower.
“Perseids are faint and fast,” he said, “but there are many.”
The Perseids will be the focus Sunday of a University of Nebraska at Kearney event. The UNK Department of Physics and Physical Science and Seven Hills Observatory will host a viewing from 10 p.m. to midnight. The event is free and open to the public.
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