Perseid meteor shower happens this weekend

Look for shooting stars August 11-13 (Friday-Sunday), 2017. (Cropped Photo: Mike Black / NASA)

Astronomers at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI) remind the public of the upcoming annual Perseid meteor shower.

The Perseid Meteors, or "Perseids," is one of the more reliable showers, and lasts for several days on either side of its peak. Look for shooting stars August 11-13 (Friday-Sunday), 2017.

Don't fall for an internet meme saying the 2017 Perseids will be the brightest meteor shower in the last 96 years (or even in human history)--it's not true. The reality is that it's just not a great year for the Perseids, and a waning gibbous moon rising around midnight during the shower will interfere with observations of the fainter meteors.

It's just an ordinary meteor shower--though it's always fun to observe. Great tips from the Asheville Astronomy Club about watching the Perseids are here.

The Perseids are best observed between about 11 p.m. and dawn from a clear, dark location with a good horizon view in all directions (the moon rises around midnight, so 11 p.m.-12 a.m. might be a good time to watch). Pick a spot with dark skies, and conditions are clear, look to the northeast to find the meteors appearing to radiate out of the constellation of Perseus (just below the "W" of Cassiopeia).

Binoculars or telescopes are not needed to observe meteor showers. The morning of August 12 should be best for observing Perseids this year.

The Perseids are associated with Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. In 1866 Giovanni V. Schiaparelli, an Italian astronomer better known for discovering the "canals" on Mars, determined that the path of the particles resulting in the Perseids was identical to the orbit of Comet Swift-Tuttle.

This discovery was confirmation of the idea that meteor showers result from the debris of comets, a theory now widely accepted in astronomical circles.

Since the Earth encounters this debris at the same point in space each time it makes its annual revolution around the Sun, we observe the Perseids close to the same date each year, around August 12.