Mark Your Calendars, NJ: Perseid Meteor Shower Should be Better than Usual
Look up, New Jersey.
This month should provide your best shot at catching a glimpse of astronomical magic, and this year's show may be better than most.
The Perseid meteor shower is upon us once again, and this is considered an "outburst" year, meaning you'll see more meteors per hour as debris left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle hits Earth's atmosphere and catches fire.
The comet last passed Earth in 1992. Its next visit isn't expected until more than 100 years from now. But each year at this time, the Earth's orbit revisits the comet's trail of dust, iron and rock.
You may have already seen white streaks in the sky since the middle of last month, and the show isn't truly over until the last week of this month, but the night of Aug. 12 is considered the date for peak activity.
"We encourage you to look northeast; it's best after 10 p.m.," said Matthew Heiss, 2016 president of the United Astronomy Clubs of New Jersey. "Depending on the size of the debris, that's going to determine the brightness of the meteor that you're seeing."
But you can't get a good view or angle just anywhere. Get under a "dark sky," Heiss advised.
The best viewing spots in New Jersey, according to Heiss, are:
- The northwest corner of the state
- The Pine Barrens
- Along the shore, looking over the ocean
And the smaller the moon, the better the show. The moon essentially acts as a giant light bulb in the sky.
According to Warren Westura, a member of the Sheep Hill Astronomical Association in Boonton, it'll be easier and more preferable to view the meteor shower with your naked eye.
"Don't try to do it with binoculars; you'll disappoint yourself," he said.
The only equipment you may need is a comfortable blanket or lawn chair.