Perseid meteor show peaks over Ottawa Tuesday
Bright moon won't entirely ruin spectacle for stargazers, expert says
Ottawa stargazers still have a chance to witness a spectacular show from the Perseid meteor shower Tuesday night, despite less than stellar light conditions.
The evening of Aug. 13 is the second — and last — night that the annual event will hit its peak, giving obervers the opportunity to see meteors zip across the sky at speeds of approximately 58 kilometres per second.
The only problem? We're just two nights away from a full moon. That means the moon will reach 95 per cent illumination Tuesday, limiting visibility to only the brightest meteors.
"We won't get the full effect of 90 to 100 meteors per hour," said Ottawa astronomer Gary Boyle, who said he's expecting only half that number to be visible Tuesday.
Boyle said the shower includes bright fireballs, which he started seeing last week. He heard more reports of the fiery flashes Monday night.
Tips for best viewing
Here are Boyle's tips for getting the most out of the experience:
- Meteors can be spotted as early as 10 p.m., but 3 a.m. is the sweet spot for optimal viewing.
- Choose an open area away from light pollution and trees. An area like the Central Experimental Farm works well, or somewhere in the countryside — Boyle's preferred spot. Try getting 20 to 30 kilometres outside the city for optimal viewing.
- Position your chair facing east to boost your chances, but meteors can appear in any direction.
- Go out with a group, and make sure you're not violating any trespassing rules.
Despite the moonlight and the possibility of being assailed by bugs, Boyle said the Perseid shower still happens at one of the best times of the year.
"The next major shower will be the Geminids in December," he said. "It might be about [–25 C] weather, as it was last year."
This year, meteors began zipping across the sky July 17, with the event expected to conclude Aug. 24. So if you'd rather wait until the weekend to stay up until dawn, you still have a shot at success next week as the moon subsides.