The beloved Perseid meteor shower peaks next Tuesday night August 12-13, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to go out right now for a look. Why? Two good reasons.
First, Earth has already entered the meteor stream formed by dust and grit left in the wake of comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. I can attest to this. While hardly trying, I spotted a half dozen Perseids after moonset this morning. Second, the nearly full moon will compromise the shower when it’s at its best.
Between now and Friday morning, the moon will set before the start of dawn, leaving skywatchers a dark, moonless window of meteor watching. You might be surprised and see more than you expected. I did.
Come August 12, when the number of meteors peak, a nearly full moon will be up all night compromising the fainter meteors. That doesn’t mean you should abandon viewing that night. Just be aware that you’ll probably see closer to 30 per hour instead of the higher number.
If you’re OK with losing a little sleep sometime in the next few nights, set the alarm for 2-3 a.m., face east or south and relax for an hour under the sky as the Perseids fly by.