Observers will be happy to know that 2013 should be a good year for the Perseids. Indeed, this year, the best known of all the annual meteor showers will reach peak activity just a few days after new moon. Therefore, the crescent moon will set early enough to be of no significant concern. The sky will be completely dark throughout the night, so we’ll be able to enjoy this celestial show at its full potential.
The only drawback about this year’s display, is that peak activity for the Perseids is expected around 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time on August 12. This timing means that observers in eastern North America will miss the moment when the Perseid meteor shower reaches its greatest intensity – that will happen in broad daylight in our part of the world. Still, the night of August 11 to 12, nearest to that maximum, will be the most favourable, with the night of August 12 to 13 a close second.
The crescent Moon will set around 10:00 p.m. on the evening of August 11th, and 10:30 p.m. on the 12th – less than an hour after twilight – just in time to observe meteors. The radiant of the Perseids will be well up in the northeast by 11 p.m., and following moonset, the sky will remain dark until the break of day. Just before dawn on August 12, under a clear dark sky, you should be able to count about 60 meteors per hour. However, in light polluted areas, one can expect to see half as many. So it will be worth the effort to seek out the darkest skies possible, away from the light pollution of cities.
To sum up, the best night for observing the Perseids will be on August 11 to 12, until dawn. The night of August 12 to 13 will also be very good. But one has to expect lower numbers of meteors when observing further from the time of peak activity. You may also be able to catch a few Perseids – although in lesser numbers – outside the peak period that ranges from August 10 to 14: indeed, Perseids are active from the end of July through the third week of August.
Now, all we can do is hope for clear weather…
Have your wish-list ready, and enjoy the Perseids!