Look up Friday and Saturday nights (Aug. 11 and 12) for this year’s Perseid meteor shower peak.
For Northern Hemisphere observers, August is usually regarded as “meteor month,” with one of the best displays of the year reaching its peak near midmonth. That display is, of course, the annual Perseid meteor shower, which is beloved by meteor enthusiasts and summer campers alike. But skywatchers beware: You will face a major obstacle in your attempt to observe this year’s Perseid performance — namely, the moon. (Live in a big city? Find out how to see the Perseids from urban areas here from our sister site Active Junky.)
As (bad) luck would have it, this year, the moon turned full on Aug. 7, and it will be at a rather bright waning gibbous phase several nights later, seriously hampering observation of the peak of the Perseids, predicted to occur on the night of Aug. 11-12. (Aug. 12-13 will also have high rates, as the absolute peak is during the day Aug. 12, but will also be obscured by the moon.)
Moonrise on Aug. 11 comes at around 10:20 p.m. local time, while on Aug. 12, it’s at around 10:50 p.m. The moon will be hovering below and to the left of the Great Square of Pegasus these nights and not all that far from the constellation Perseus, from where the meteors will appear to emanate (hence the name “Perseid”). Perseus does not begin to climb high up into the northeast sky until around midnight; by dawn, it’s nearly overhead. But bright moonlight will flood the sky through most of those two key nights and will certainly play havoc with any serious attempts to observe these meteors.
So, unfortunately, the moon intervenes to spoil the Perseid’s best, even if your part of the country is blessed with clear skies.
You do have options to watch the 2017 Perseids online. On Saturday, the online Slooh community observatory will host a free webcast of the Perseids here, beginning at 8 p.m. EDT (0000 GMT). The webcast will also appear on Space.com, courtesy of Slooh.
The Virtual Telescope Project based in Italy will host a live webcast Saturday at 4:50 p.m. EDT (2050 GMT). You can watch that Perseids webcast live here at start time.