We're going to get a great show Saturday night thanks to the Perseid meteor shower, although a bright moon will wash out many of them.
Great news, stargazers: the Perseid meteor shower peaks this weekend, meaning you’ll get your best look yet at the annual event. However, don’t believe the hype circulating the Internet that this is the brighest Perseid show in recorded human history, because that’s just not true.
This show will actually be a pretty standard show by Perseid standards, and an unusually bright moon will unfortunately wash out a lot of the meteors from public view. However, it’s still something worth gazing into space to see on Saturday night, when it will be dark enough yet closest to its peak.
The Perseids are a debris field left behind by a meteor that the Earth passes through every summer. At its most productive, the Perseids can result in hundreds of meteors per hour in the sky.
“At NASA, we get very excited about many astronomical events — to name just a few, the return of Halley’s Comet back in 1985/86; the impact of the fragments of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 with Jupiter in 1992; the Leonid meteor storms of 1998, 1999, 2001 and 2002; and, of course, the upcoming total solar eclipse on Aug. 21 of this year,” reads a NASA blog post. “Some of these events get blown a bit out of proportion. A classic example is that every time Mars comes to opposition (closest approach to Earth), the internet reverberates with the very false statement that Mars will appear as large as the Moon at that time. Nothing could be farther from the truth, as Mars, at its very closest to Earth, appears only 1/70th the apparent diameter of the Moon.
“This year we have a new one — reports are circulating that this year’s Perseids will be the “brightest shower in recorded human history,” lighting up the night sky and even having some meteors visible during the day. We wish this were true… but no such thing is going to happen.”