August will be a busy month for sky-gazers.
The once-in-a-century total solar eclipse, which will be visible across the United States August 21, has prompted a flurry of excitement. Many schools are altering their schedules to let students watch it, some Georgia state parks are holding special programs, and many vendors are rushing to producing eclipse viewing glasses for people hoping to get a direct look at the rare event.
But why wait until then to see something interesting in the sky?
The Perseid Meteor Shower is happening right now, and is expected to peak later this week.
“August 11 and 12 are good nights to see it, after midnight” said Shawn Cruzen, Ph.D, director of the Coca-Cola Space Science Center.
“The later you can stay out, the more meteors you can see. Meteor showers are not one day or for one hour. It happens over days and it kinda ramps up.”
NASA expects the shower to produce about 150 meteors per hour.
“Meteor showers are caused when this messy comet, called Swift-Tuttle, melts a little bit and leaves behind debris,” Cruzen said.
Whenever the Earth passes through the debris path, which happens at the same time every year, those little particles burn up in the atmosphere at brilliant streaks of light.
Cruzen said if you want to see as many meteors as possible, you’ll have to find a dark place away from the city lights.
“Many of the meteors are not very bright, so the darker the sky, the more meteors you're going to see. In the city, you’ll only see the brightest 10 or 20 percent. If you get out of the city and find some darker places, you’ll be able to see a lot more.”
Scott Berson: 706-571-8578, @ScottBersonLE