Perseid meteor shower visible Sunday, Monday
The annual Perseid meteor will be visible starting Sunday, so look up if you are up -- it should be a good show. It'll reach it's peak early overnight Monday into Tuesday morning, .
Starting Sunday night, you can see on average 70 meteors per hour. You won't see the meteors evenly spread out over time. You may see nothing for five minutes and then four or more in a row a minute later. The moon is a thin crescent that will set in the evening hours both night so it will not pose a problem to viewing. The forecast for Sunday and Monday nights isn't great -- partly to mostly cloudy skies with temperatures in the mid to mid 80s. Hopefully we can get some clearing in SE Texas for the night time hours.
Look toward the northeastern sky, the constellation Perseus, where the meteor shower gets its name, forms an inverted "Y" shape. This is the area where the meteors or "shooting stars" originate. Often referred to as shooting or falling stars, meteors aren't stars at all. The particles we see originated from the Comet Swift-Tuttle. As Earth runs into the particle stream in its orbit every year, we view the bright, fast meteors as they hit Earth's atmosphere at 37 miles per second. The particles are small bits of interplanetary rock and debris vaporizing high in Earth's upper atmosphere. Traveling at tens of thousands of miles an hour, it ignites from the friction with the atmosphere, 30 to 80 miles above the ground. Almost all are destroyed in this process. The rare few that survive and hit the ground are known as meteorites. The meteors are usually the size of a grain of rice.
You will see more meteors if you observe from a dark location (40 miles away from the lights of a big city, like Houston). It's also best to view meteor showers without a telescope because your eyes provide the best field of view. For maximum comfort set up a lawn chair, preferably one that reclines, and enjoy the show. In addition to your chair, bring a blanket, bug spray, cookies, fruit and a non-alcoholic beverage (alcohol interferes with the eye’s dark adaption as well as the visual perception of events).
The George Observatory, in Richmond, has an annual viewing party you can attend Saturday night. It's 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. and costs $3 to $5. Parking is $7.
Best viewing hours are from Midnight to 6 a.m. Saturday, Sunday and Monday overnight. This is a really cool video of the Perseid Meteor Shower.