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Perseid Meteor Shower Prime Viewing Conditions Align Thursday

A still from a NASA.gov detailing research that marks the Perseid Meteor Shower as the "fireball champion" of annual meteor showers.
A still from a NASA.gov detailing research that marks the Perseid Meteor Shower as the "fireball champion" of annual meteor showers.
A still from a NASA.gov detailing research that marks the Perseid Meteor Shower as the “fireball champion” of annual meteor showers.

The Perseid Meteor Shower, annually timed during the dog days of summer, occur free of competing moonlight this year, peaking between now and Friday, with Thursday night’s forecast fair and mostly cloud-free.

The rest of the Perseid’s peak viewing days this year fall on what are unfortunate weather events: thunderstorms Tuesday, cloudy skies Wednesday, then cloudy skies again on Friday. Thursday, though, boasts a forecast mostly clear of clouds with no inclement weather, a crucial element of a successful meteor shower viewing often overlooked by breathless previews of the event.

Avid stargazers will likely be glimpsing the Perseids for the first time since 2013, as The Christian Science Monitor reported  that 2014’s Perseids were washed out by a bright moon.

Wednesday evening, which promises partly cloudy skies, may well be worth trying your luck, though, as that’s the day the Frosty Drew Observatory in Charlestown (the best spot in the state for stargazing with as little light pollution as possible) will host their viewing event of the Perseids, when as many as 100 meteors per hour will be visible in between drifting clouds as midnight gives way to early morning, the peak viewing hours for the meteors.

Frosty Drew will open their Observatory and Sky Theatre at 8:30 p.m. In the Observatory, telescopes will showcase the night sky from 8:30 – 11 p.m. with views of Saturn, nebulae, star clusters, and galaxies. After 11 p.m., they’ll bring viewers outside to gaze at the spectacular meteor shower.

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A diagram of the Earth's path through the debris from the Comet  Swift-Tuttle.
A diagram of the Earth’s path through the debris from the Comet Swift-Tuttle.

If Charlestown doesn’t suit you as a destination, try your luck with any open field out west in Coventry, or further west in Connecticut if you’re the adventurous type. The further you move from city lights and highways, the better your chances for viewing the show.

Watch: NASA video dubbing Perseids the “fireball champion” of annual meteor showers

What are the Perseids?

The Perseids and the spectacular meteor shower show they’re known for are created by the debris field from Comet Swift Tuttle, which the Earth passes though every August. Pieces from the comet, meteors, strike the Earth’s atmosphere at 132,000 mph, burning up and creating the fireball effect, according to NASA.gov.

(Meteorites are meteors that survive their firey encounter with the atmosphere and strike the Earth.)

The Perseids were named so because the meteors viewed appear to be approaching from the constellation Perseus.

Where to view:

Frosty Drew Observatory 61 Park Ln, Charlestown, RI  (401) 364-9508

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Any spot far from city/town lights. The farther you get from town, the better your view will be.

When to view: 

This week the best days for viewing fall on Aug. 12 and Aug. 13, just after midnight. 

Tips: 

  • Bring a blanket and something to prop your head up as you watch for meteors.
  • Remember, state parks close at dusk, so while those areas are far from light pollution, you won’t be able to go in.
  • This is a good night to let the other guy drive so you can just look up.
  • If you see a very slow, bright object sailing across the sky, it’s either a satellite or a Space Station.
Rob Borkowski
Author: Rob Borkowski

Rob has worked as reporter and editor for several publications, including The Kent County Daily Times and Coventry Courier, before working for Gatehouse in MA then moving home with Patch Media. Now he's publisher and editor of WarwickPost.com. Contact him at editor@warwickpost.com with tips, press releases, advertising inquiries, and concerns.