The Perseid meteor shower is arguably the best meteor shower of the year (I’m partial to the Geminids, which can be viewed in the cold, clear skies of December). At the shower’s peak and under optimal conditions, you can expect to see about 60 meteors per hour, emanating from the constellation Perseus.
A Perseid meteor falls toward the bright stars Castor and Pollux in Gemini during dawn in 2018.
The Perseid meteors are particles cast off of Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. The shower is broad, so you can see Perseids every year, from July 17th until August 24th.
This year’s peak occurs on the night of Wednesday August 11th and predawn hours of Thursday August 12th. Several sources indicate that the shower peaks on the night of the 12th and morning of the 13th, but the American Meteor Society says the peak is on the 11th and 12th, so that’s what I’m going with. However, you should see ample meteors on both nights.
Conditions for watching the Perseids this week may be a mixed bag. The moon sets around 10pm MDT, so the sky will be dark all night. However, clouds and the continued layer of wildfire smoke that blankets New Mexico may interfere. Weather forecasts can be off, so don’t assume that clouds will hinder your viewing.
A faint Perseid slashes the sky above the garden gate on Saturday morning, August 7th.
While partly cloudy conditions can cut into the number of meteors seen, you can still view some, as the above photo shows (the sky that morning was about 40% cloudy). Find a spot with a clear view of the sky, lay back, and observe. Meteors can appear anywhere in the sky, so there’s no best place to look. If the sky’s partly cloudy, find the largest patch of clear sky and focus on that.
Enjoy the show.