For those of us in Arkansas, the annual Perseids meteor shower is among the most reliably visible sky events, and potentially one of the most rewarding. Setting up a picnic blanket or a camp chair on the shores of Lake Maumelle — or anywhere else that’s remote enough to avert the haze of city lights — is about the safest live entertainment you can catch these days, and daytime highs in the upper 90s mean that nighttime hours are the most tolerable time to be outdoors, anyway. Below, we hear from Jim Dixon of the Central Arkansas Astronomical Society, who we asked about peeping the Perseids this week.
Weather permitting, this looks to be a good year for the Perseid Meteor Shower since the Moon will not interfere (New Moon was Sunday, Aug. 8). The shower does peak on Wednesday night extending into the early hours of Thursday morning, but this shower should also be good a day before and a day or two after.
The snippet below shows the night sky at 10 p.m. Wednesday evening. The aquamarine star burst just above the horizon between North and Northeast and below the crooked “W” of the constellation of Cassiopeia is where they will be coming from. You will be able to see them anywhere in the sky but if you track them back, it will be to this area. As the evening progresses, this point will rise and move but will always be generally to the north-northeast. Occasionally you will see a random meteor unrelated to the shower. We call them “random meteors.”
Ideally, find a location where you have dark skies away from the city. Bring extra clothing or a blanket as you will lose heat even in August. Get comfortable and face north, a cot or reclining lawn chair would be best for this since that would let you see the entire sky. Be patient. The peak each night happens after midnight. You should be able to see one every few minutes in the early evening but later, that will increase to about one every minute.