The prospect for 2015 is excellent. From an astronomical point of view, the Perseids will take place under ideal circumstances, to the benefit of observers across North America.
In fact, maximum activity for the Perseids is expected during the night of August 12 to 13, between 2:30 and 5:00 in the morning Eastern Time, though it could occur a few hours earlier or later. The first meteors could appear as soon as the sky darkens, but it’s after midnight that the show will really take off. The radiant, the area where the meteors appear to emanate, climbs higher in the sky during the second half of the night: from Quebec, it will reach optimum height just before dawn, the same time when the shower should attain its maximum intensity.
The Moon will be new on August 14 and will not affect observations in any way. It will be worth the effort to travel away from light pollution and find the darkest observing site possible, in order to take full advantage of these perfect conditions. Under a moderately dark sky, about 30 meteors should be visible per hour, and even more than 70 at a site completely free from light pollution.
The “normal” peak could also be preceded by another, short-period, increase in activity: Some specialists predict that Earth will pass close to the dust stream liberated by comet Swift-Tuttle during its 1862 passage. Though, given the time when this secondary peak should occur (during the day on August 12 for eastern North America), it will only be visible to Asian observers.
Should the weather be uncooperative during the August 12-13 timeframe, keep in mind that the Perseids are also visible a few nights before and after the period of peak activity — but one has to expect significantly fewer meteors. In fact, you can spot Perseids as early as mid-July, and the shower remains active through the third week of August.
Let’s hope for clear skies… and get your wish lists ready!