Monday, August 11, 2008

Perseid meteor shower peaks overnight Monday

If you happen to be awake in the wee hours of the morning, Tuesday, look up! You might just see a shooting star.

That's because the annual Perseid meteor shower peaks late overnight Monday.

"The time to look is during the dark hours before dawn on Tuesday, August 12th," says Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center in a news release. "There should be plenty of meteors--perhaps one or two every minute."

Although a nearly full moon may make for poor viewing conditions earlier in the night, the moon will set around 2 a.m. leaving much better viewing conditions until dawn, according to NASA. Sunrise in Lancaster is at 6:14 a.m., Tuesday, according to The Weather Channel's
Viewers should look to the east for the best view, although meteors can streak anywhere in the sky.

According to the National Weather Service's Forecast Office in State College, viewing conditions should be ideal overnight with less than 20% cloud coverage and temperatures in the low 60s.

The Perseids are so-named because they usually appear to emanate from the constellation Perseus. Perseus is the legendary Greek hero who is said to have slain the monster Medusa.

Meteor showers occur when the Earth passes through a cloud of ice, dust, and rock, left behind from a comet that crossed through or near the Earth's orbit. When the Earth passes through this cloud, the particulate matter enters the atmosphere at a very high rate of speed where extreme friction causes it to ignite.

In the case of the Perseids, the annual shower occurs when the Earth passes through a debris cloud shed by the comet Swift-Tuttle.

For more information, viewing tips, and photographs of the event, visit or