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Perseid meteor shower 2021 peaks now: How to watch the fireball show

Perseid meteor shower 2021 peaks now: How to watch the fireball show

A Perseid meteor crosses the sky in 2016.

NASA/Bill Ingalls

The Perseid meteor shower, one of the best meteor showers of the year, is bringing “shooting stars” to the night sky much of this month. This really is “considered the best meteor shower of the year,” according to NASA, and it’s a stunning display of celestial fireworks stargazers won’t want to miss. Here’s when you can see the show for yourself or how to follow along via livestream.

The Perseids are active until Aug. 24, but meteor activity will peak on the night of Aug. 11 and morning of Aug. 12. NASA calls out the night of Aug. 12 and morning of Aug. 13 as another great skywatching opportunity.

“The meteors are best viewed from the northern hemisphere, and in ideal conditions with no clouds observers could see up to 50 an hour,” the Royal Astronomical Society said in a statement about the peak, which will be on the night of Aug. 12 for the UK and Europe. The moon will be staying low-key, giving watchers a nice dark sky to work with.

The Perseids are popular for their reliability and the potential for spectacular fireballs. The actual number of shooting stars you might see will vary depending on cloud cover, light pollution and location. According to NASA, if you are out in the country in the US with no clouds, you might catch around 40 Perseids in the hour just before dawn on peak nights. 

On July 26, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center shared an image of a streaking Perseid meteor spotted by a camera at the Mount Lemmon Observatory in Arizona.

Fireballs can happen when larger pieces of comet debris strike the atmosphere, creating long, bright streaks, the kind that make you say “Whoa!” Ready to get excited? Check out these photos from last year’s shower:

Catch a shooting star

At its simplest, viewing the meteor shower is just about heading out at night and looking up, but there are some steps you can take to improve your chances at catching a good show. You’re in luck if you’re a super-early riser. The pre-dawn hours are a prime viewing time, but NASA also says you can see the meteors as early as 10 p.m. local time.

Some of the biggest obstacles to good meteor viewing are cloudy weather and light pollution. Aim for a clear night and try to get away from city lights. A hammock, blanket or a chair that leans back will save you from craning your neck. Give your eyes plenty of time to adjust to the darkness.

You can spot the meteors anywhere in the sky, though they get their name because they appear to be radiating from the constellation Perseus. To find Perseus, check out a stargazing app that will help you locate the constellation. Perseus isn’t the actual source of the shower, but it can be helpful in tracking down the sometimes elusive streaks of light.    

Watch a Perseids livestream

NASA will offer a livestream hosted by the Meteoroid Environment Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center. The streams kicks off at 8 p.m. PT on Aug. 11 on FacebookTwitter and Youube.

The Virtual Telescope Project is hosting another livestream starting at 5 p.m. PT on Wednesday.

You don’t have to stick to the exact mid-August peak to enjoy the action. A dark spot on a clear night can deliver a worthwhile viewing experience throughout the Perseids’ visit. Catch those shooting stars while you can.

Follow CNET’s 2021 Space Calendar to stay up to date with all the latest space news this year. You can even add it to your own Google Calendar.      

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