Annual meteor shower lights up night skies through Aug. 24 |

Annual meteor shower lights up night skies through Aug. 24

A meteor from the Perseid meteor shower is seen above Shenandoah National Park in Virginia on Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015.

There’s not a lot of fireworks to look forward to after the Fourth of July, but there’s still plenty of reasons to look to the night sky — possibly 90 an hour for a few nights over the coming weeks.

The Perseid meteor shower, an annual astronomical phenomenon, began on July 17 and is expected to last until August 24. A brighter moon might get in the way of seeing the faintest meteors this summer but shouldn’t obscure them all.


The shower starts each summer in mid-July and lasts until mid-August as Earth travels through the path of the Swift-Tuttle comet.

Lou Coban, manager of the Allegheny Observatory, said you can think of comets as giant snowballs loosely held together by gravity. Bits and pieces that flake off of Swift-Tuttle linger in space and are visible.

“You can trace them all back to the constellation of Perseus,” Coban said. “That’s where they get their name.”

Two to five meteors an hour can be spotted any given night, under the right conditions, Coban said.

During the Perseids, as many as 90 meteors can be seen an hour.

“The problem is, the moon is going to be between full- and last-quarter (phases), which means the moon will actually interfere with seeing a good percentage of the faint meteors,” said Tom Reiland, director of the Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh.

A meteor streaks through a bare patch of sky above Gainesville, Fla., during the annual Perseid meteor shower on Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015.

Photo by AP



Activity should be highest overnight Aug. 11-12, though plenty of meteors will pass before and after.

“On a good night,” Reiland said, “the meteor showers are best to watch after midnight.”

Less humid nights are preferable, as air moisture can amplify the effects of light pollution, like what occurs when high beams on a car are turned on in the fog.

In this early morning, Aug. 13, 2013 file photo, a meteor streaks past the faint band of the Milky Way galaxy above the Wyoming countryside north of Cheyenne, Wyo., during a Perseids meteor shower.

Photo by AP



“The best way to view any meteor shower is to get far away from city lights and get as much sky as you possibly can,” Coban said.

Great views from Pittsburgh aren’t likely, he said. Instead, he suggests traveling to Ligonier or Latrobe. The Amateur Astronomers will host a stargazing party Aug. 11 at Mingo Observatory in Finleyville, Washington County.

For those feeling more adventurous, Dennis Hill of Kiski Astronomers recommends a trip to Cherry Springs State Park in Potter County.

“They have some of the darkest skies east of the Mississippi River,” he said.

Matthew Guerry is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2122, [email protected] or via Twitter at @MattGuerry.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.