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Meteor shower to rain shooting stars every minute

Meteor shower to rain shooting stars every minute
One of the 2007 Perseids, courtesy of Spaceweather.com

The 2008 Perseid meteor shower peaks Tuesday morning during the pre-dawn hours. "There should be plenty of meteors--perhaps one or two every minute," said Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center.

The 2008 Perseid meteor shower peaks Tuesday morning during the pre-dawn hours.

"There should be plenty of meteors--perhaps one or two every minute," said Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center.

The West Coast could see upwards of 100 Perseids per hour, according to Wes Stone's Skytour astronomy Web site.

A trail of debris from the Comet Swift-Tuttle, currently located beyond the orbit of Uranus, stretches all the way back to Earth, according to NASA.

Earth crosses the trail in August and is pelted by specks of comet dust hitting the atmosphere at 132,000 mph. At that speed, even a flimsy speck of dust makes a vivid streak of light when it disintegrates, producing the "shooting star" effect.

The meteors appear to originate from the constellation Perseus in the eastern sky.

Map courtesy of NASA

Over Western Washington, the first meteors will appear around 9 p.m. along the horizon. For a while the moon will interfere with the Perseids, lunar glare wiping out all but the brightest meteors. Around 2 a.m. on Tuesday morning, the moon will set and the shower will continue uninterrupted until the sun rises.  The peak of the shower is also around 1-2 a.m. so this really is prime time.

The brightest Perseids can be seen from cities, Cooke said, but the greater flurry of faint, delicate meteors is visible only from the countryside. Around here, a good suggestion is to head up into the Cascades, like Snoqualmie Pass, to get away from city lights.

Aside from the moon, sky conditions look excellent. Mostly clear skies are expected across the region, except for immediately along the Washington coast.

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