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Catch a Falling Star – The Perseid Meteor Shower

Photo by Austin Schmid

by Janet Jonus

Look up in the sky and catch one of nature’s best celestial shows.

The Perseid Meteor Showers will be at their peak this weekend. FamilyFunPittsburghers should be able to see the best annual meteor shower in the night skies to the northeast both days this weekend (if the weather cooperates). This year’s showers should be even more spectacular as the moon is in its new phase which means it is putting out less light, making the meteors even brighter in the night sky. To see the showers, try to find the darkest place you can, away from man-made lights, spread out a blanket, and look up to the northeastern sky. While the Perseids should be visible both nights this weekend, their peak will be Sunday night, August 12th around 1100PM. The Perseids will be visible from dusk on but they will be low in the sky. By 1100PM, the Perseid Constellation should be high enough in the sky for easier viewing.

Every year, the earth travels through the tail of a comet called the Swift-Tuttle Comet. Tiny bits of debris fall through the Earth’s atmosphere at 132,000 miles per hour. As they burn up in the atmosphere, they streak across the night sky – as many as 60 meteors per hour according to Space.com. The Perseids were named after the Perseus constellation as they appear to be falling from the constellation itself. (Perseus is next to Pegasus and under Cassiopeia. Cassiopeia is the one that looks like a zig-zag or a “W”.)

You can see the Perseids through August 24th but they will be fewer than this weekend. Sunday night will have more meteors than Saturday, and it is easier to see the meteors later in the night, after midnight, but you may be able to see them as early as nightfall. The Pittsburgh forecast is calling for mostly cloudy skies this weekend but there is a chance for some breaks in the clouds. With a little luck, you can catch a falling star and make a wish.

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