Perseid meteor shower expected to light up Northern California skies

CHICO — For stargazers and aspiring astronomers alike, the upcoming Perseid meteor shower will be the must-see event of the year.

Illuminating the sky with approximately 100 shooting stars per hour, the meteor shower is one of the most beloved meteor showers in the Northern Hemisphere, said Chico State Associate Professor of Physics Nicholas Nelson.

The light of the meteors will be visible to the naked eye, but will be easiest to see in dark skies away from light pollution.

“As a good rule of thumb, if you can see the Milky Way, you’re in an area that has pretty dark skies,” Nelson said. “If you just look up for a few minutes, you’ll see some pretty incredible shooting stars.”

The meteor shower has been observed for hundreds of years from mid July to late August. It occurs because a large comet passes by the earth every 133 years, leaving behind a trail of debris in the atmosphere. Each year the Earth passes by the Perseid constellation where most of the debris are located, creating a display of “shooting stars” in the Northern Hemisphere.

“If you get into an area with really dark skies, the meteors actually look like they’re coming from a single point on the sky,” Nelson said. “All of the streaks will sort of trace back to one spot. That’s why it’s called the Perseid meteor shower because it’s coming from the constellation Perseus”

Nelson said that the best time to see this phenomenon is during the meteor shower’s peak on Aug. 12 and 13.

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“It’s a great opportunity to see something active going on in the sky,” Nelson said. “Most of the time if you go stargazing, the stars aren’t doing very much. The Perseids and other meteor showers are great opportunities to sort of see the sky in action, where you can see these beautiful streaks of light shoot across the sky.”

According to the NASA, this year’s shower will be much dimmer than usual due to the full moon lighting up the sky on Friday. NASA writes that because of the moon’s light pollution, the best time to see the shower is between midnight and dawn, but it may still be difficult to catch a glimpse of the meteors.

The Perseid meteors will begin to wane Aug. 21 to 22 and cease completely by Sept. 1.