8/10/2012 10:38 AM
It comes but once a year: not Christmas (okay, that’s also once a year) but the Perseid meteor shower. The Perseids provide the best shooting star show of the year. They occur each year starting in late July and peter out in late August. The shower peaks on August 12th this year. And, a crescent moon paired with an excellent alignment of Venus, Mars and Jupiter will make for a gorgeous show.
There are two ways to make this a perfect date, depending on whether you are a night owl or an early riser:
For the Night Owl
The meteors can be seen any time after dark. Head out after 11 pm Sunday night for the a great show, when up to 100 meteors will be visible each hour. You need to get away from light pollution to see the meteors, so, figure out someplace open and outdoors a bit outside town. Bring a blanket, a bottle of wine, and some great snacks for some stargazing.
More of a Morning Person
If you are an early riser, you’re in luck. The most ideal time for seeing the meteor shower is during the dark predawn hours after the moon has set. Set your alarm early, pack a thermos of coffee, and head out. Follow up meteor watching with a gorgeous sunrise. Then, find a cute little place on the way back into town for breakfast.
Have a geeky streak? While you are out, impress your date by sharing a bit of astronomical knowledge:
• The shower is called the Perseid Shower because it’s visible near the constellation Perseus.
• Meteors are formed when bits of dust pass into the Earth’s atmosphere and catch fire. Most burn completely, but, the bits that make it to the ground are meteorites.
• The Perseids are formed by the debris of the Swift-Tuttle comet, which we pass through at about the same time each year.
• The Perseids meteor showers have been observed annually for 2000 years.