The annual Perseid Meteor Shower peaks this week. This is one of the best meteor showers of the year with observers seeing as many as 100 meteors per hour under a dark sky.
This year’s shower is expected to peak on the night of Wed. Aug 11 / Thur. Aug. 12. On that night, with the crescent moon setting around 10pm, observers should be in for a good show! The best time to watch this shower is from about 10:30pm – 4am. If you are not able to watch on Wednesday night, Thursday night is also expected to have a good rate, albeit, with lower numbers.
Later evening viewers will see fewer meteors, but these tend to be the longest lasting and sometimes brightest of the night. This time, from 10:30pm – midnight will be the best for family and student viewing. The window to see the maximum amount of meteors is usually in the early morning hours between 2-4am.
The radiant, the direction the meteors seem to come from, will be rising across the northeastern sky during the night, so that is usually the best direction to look in.
Before dawn on Wednesday May 26th the moon will dip into the Earth’s shadow, marking the start of a total lunar eclipse. The moon will enter the Earth’s outer penumbra shadow at 3:47am. During this phase it’ll be difficult to notice anything.
After 4am, you should begin to see some shading on the moon’s SE (bottom left) side. The shading will darken and spread across the moon until the partial phase begins at 4:44am. At that time the moon will enter the dark core of earth’s shadow.
Unfortunately, the moon will set in the partial phase for Arkansas around 6am, a mere 10 minutes before totality occurs. However, totality marks the time when the moon is exactly opposite the sun. Thus as the moon goes down, look to the east to watch the sun come up.
This is also the closest full moon of the year, making this a supermoon, and it is known as the Flower Moon.
Our next lunar eclipse will also be an early morning eclipse, however, we’ll be able to see the full eclipse.
Mid-May brings a rare opportunity to see all of the planets of the inner solar system in the evening sky. To see them you’ll need a clear, low WNW horizon.
Highest in the sky is Mars. Mars has been a fixture in the evening sky for several months, however it is growing dimmer as Earth is continually speeding ahead in our faster orbit. Mars is now on the far side of the sun and getting farther away with each passing day.
Next is elusive Mercury. As the closest planet it never gets very far from the sun. Mercury will only be easily visible during mid-month. It reaches its greatest separation from the sun on the 17th and then begins to step closer to the setting sun each evening.
Venus is closest to the horizon. It too is on the far side of the sun, but night by night it is slowly stepping away and getting brighter. By late summer, it’ll be our brilliant evening star.
Last, but not least, Earth. To see it you’ll just have to look down!!!
Some notable dates:
May 12 – Crescent moon passes near Venus
May 13 – Crescent moon just above Mercury
May 15 – Crescent moon just below Mars
May 17 – Mercury at greatest separation from the sun.
May 28 – Mercury and Venus in conjunction