Perseids meteor shower peaks this week, with annual show continuing until Aug. 24 |

Perseids meteor shower peaks this week, with annual show continuing until Aug. 24

Patrick Varine
Tribune-Review file
A shooting star shares the sky with satellites and aircraft at the scenic overlook near Brady’s Bend Township in Armstrong County during the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower, Sunday, August 13, 2018.
Tribune-Review file
A meteor streaks past the faint band of the Milky Way galaxy above the countryside north of Cheyenne, Wyo., during a Perseid meteor shower on Aug. 13, 2013.

There’s really only one big rule when it comes to enjoying the annual Perseids meteor shower, which was expected to peak Monday night into early Tuesday morning but will continue for another couple of weeks.

“You have to be looking up,” said Ken Kobus, who has been a member of the Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh for 55 years. “Lots of people will be talking back and forth, and then somebody will see something, and by the time everyone else looks up, it’s already gone.”

Kobus recommended finding a good picnic blanket or chaise lounge once the sun goes down to get the best view of what is essentially the fallout from Earth passing through the path of the Swift-Tuttle comet.

“There are these little grain-of-sand-sized pieces of comet that are in this path,” Kobus said. “And when the Earth passes through it and they hit the atmosphere, these tiny pieces burn up.”

Kobus planned to be at the Mingo Creek Park Observatory in Finleyville on Monday night, keeping his eyes on the sky.

“Some of (the pieces) can get pretty spectacular if they break apart, and some will leave little smoke trails,” he said. “It just depends on the shower. Some even have a little color to them, other than the blue-white streak most people see.”

A dozen meteor showers can be seen throughout the course of a year. The Perseids tend to garner a little more attention “because it’s the summertime and it’s nice and warm,” Kobus said. “Plus the Perseids usually have a count of about 60 per hour, although I’ve been watching these for decades and I’ve never seen 60 in an hour.”

Viewing conditions can affect that number, though. Kobus said viewing the shower tonight should be relatively easy until midnight, when cloud cover is expected to move through and obscure viewing until about 2 a.m.

“Tonight, (Monday), there’s also a full moon, which throws a lot of light and makes it harder to see the more faint ones,” he said.

Due to Steelers training camp, Saint Vincent College in Unity did not plan any viewing events for this week at its observatory, said John Smetanka, academic affairs vice president and an associate professor.

A nearly full moon could make it worth getting up early to see the meteor shower rather than staying up late, he said.

“The best opportunity will be after the moon ‘goes down,’ which will be about 3:30 a.m.,” Smetanka said. “So if you wake up really early, that’ll be a nice viewing window, and it should be the peak, because that’s when we’re moving into the swarm that causes the meteor shower.”

The moon will reach its full phase on Thursday.

The Perseids meteor shower this year started July 17 and will continue until Aug. 24, according to the American Meteor Society. It reaches its peak on either Aug. 12 or Aug. 13, depending on the year.

A few years ago, Kobus recalled more than 800 people crowded onto the hillside at Mingo Observatory.

“You’d hear a big ‘ooh’ or ‘ahh’ coming from different parts of the group when they’d just seen a good one,” he said. “That’s kind of near to hear.”

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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