The feeling of being outside as dawn approaches, after watching the Perseid meteor shower, is truly exceptional. As seen from anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, the radiant point of the Perseids is at its peak at dawn. Therefore, the meteors rain down from above. This year, the moon may be disruptive while the shower takes place.
So, when will the Perseid’s meteor peak happen in 2020?
The biggest number of meteors seems to fall in the hours before dawn on August 12th. However, it will be under a wide, crescent moon’s light. It is also worth to try the mornings of August 11th and 13th. On the morning of August 13th, there will be a smaller and less bright moon in comparison to the previous dates. Besides, that means more hours of the night sky to watch the meteors. So, the rising of the moon is the main factor. Check out the Sunrise Sunset Calendars to see when the moon rises where you live. Also, don’t forget to check the box with moonrise and moonset.
Remember that the Perseids appear to be bright. So, in the next few mornings, we assume that a number of them will overshadow the moonlight. You may spot as many as forty to fifty meteors an hour in the hours before dawn.
You can see the shower in the night hours before the moon rises in the Northern Hemisphere. But the number of meteors in the evening is very small. However, the evening is the ideal time of night if you want to spot the earth grazer. It is an elongated, long-lasting meteor that moves horizontally across the sky. Earth grazers are unusual but truly unforgettable if you’re fortunate enough to see one of them.
In the Southern Hemisphere, you won’t be able to see the first meteors or potential earth gazers until after midnight or early morning hours. In both of the Northern and Southern Hemisphere, the biggest number of meteors hit the sky several hours before dawn.
The first historical note of Perseid activity was taken from a record in 36 A.D. that was Chinese. In it, it was said that above 100 meteors were seen in the morning.
Numerous Chinese, Japanese, and Korean documents are referring back to the August Perseids in the 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th centuries. In the meantime, according to the ancient western sky, the Perseid shower honors the time when the god Zeus met the mortal maiden Danaë in the form of a golden shower. Zeus and Danaë were the parents of Perseus the Hero, and the meteors emit from his constellation. Read more about the radiant point of the Perseid below.
Perseid meteors take place every year around this time, as Earth passes the orbital path of Comet Swift-Tuttle in its orbit. Dusty particles left behind by this comet crash into the upper atmosphere of the Earth, lighting the sky as fiery Perseid meteors. The meteors begin slowly in the evening hours, then start to pick up speed after midnight, and in the dark hours they pull out the highest numbers.
When traced back, the paths of the Perseid meteors seem to emerge in the Perseus constellation. Therefore, the name Perseid meteor shower comes from that. While looking into the dark skies, try to find the radiant point of the Perseid. You will enjoy the meteors even without finding it, but it’s exciting to spot.
Perseus itself is not all that simple to spot, but there is a nearby constellation, Cassiopeia the Queen that is.
To find it, look northward. It has a very unique shape of the letter W or number 3.
Let’s go deeper! Look for Perseus’ Double Cluster. The double cluster of stars is almost precisely the radiant point of the Perseid meteor shower. You should identify it by searching with your binoculars between Perseus and Cassiopeia.
Though the Double Cluster can be found with a naked eye in a dark country sky, the Double Cluster stars explode into view when seen through binoculars. The Double Cluster is believed to be more than 7,000 light-years away from us, in the Perseus branch of the Milky Way galaxy.
Here is the great news. Knowing the Perseus constellation is not a must if you want to watch this Perseid meteor shower. Therefore, you don’t have to find a radiant spot. The Perseids emanate from there, but they will occur in all areas of the sky at night.
So, here is what you need to learn about the radiant spot.
As seen from the Northern Hemisphere, it lies low in the north-eastern sky in the evening and goes up in the night. The higher the radiance in your sky, the greater number of Perseid meteors you will be able to see. In the case of the Perseids, the radiant is significantly higher before the sunrise. To sum up, the largest number of Perseid meters is expected to take place during the early hours on August 12th, but still under the brightness of a large, crescent moon. The mornings of August 11th and 13th are definitely worth a try, too. You could see as many as 40 to 50 meteors an hour at the peak of the shower.