The annual Perseid Meteor Shower will reach its peak between 10 and 13 August this year (2013), producing as many as 100 shooting stars per hour between 10 pm and dawn.
The best viewing spots will be rural areas with few lights and little air pollution, such as the wide open spaces of the American West.
Arches National Park, which is situated near Moab, Utah, in the United States, is one such spot.
It will host a “Moon and Meteors” special event at the Balanced Rock Viewpoint and Picnic Area on 11 August 2013.
Park rangers will be on hand from 9 pm to 11 pm to help stargazers focus their telescopes on the moon, Saturn, and other celestial objects.
Visitors can also stargaze and search for meteors without the help of park rangers along the Balanced Rock Trail.
Tears of St Lawrence
Sometimes referred to as the Tears of St Lawrence, since 10 August is the date of the saint's martydom, the Perseid Meteior Shower begins in mid-July and reaches its peak between 9 and 14 August. The peak viewing dates vary slightly from year to year
So what, exactly, causes a meteor shower?
According to Space.com, a meteor shower occurs “when dust or particles from asteroids or comets” enter the atmosphere of the earth at a very high speed. The friction that is caused when they rub against particles of air create what is popularly referred to as “shooting stars”.
“Watching a meteror shower on a clear, dark night is an unforgettable experience, Space.com says. “This cosmic show makes even the most hardened astronomer gaze in awe …”
Needless to say, you want to be as far from an urban centre as possible to fully appreciate the phenonmenon. Both night lights and air pollution dramatically detract from the show. Cloud cover, of courses, blocks it out completely.
Up Close and Personal
Several years ago, a meteor shower coincided with clear skies over Hong Kong – something that doesn't happen very often!
I was able to view the phenomenon from my rooftop in the rural New Territories. It was an awe-inspiring experience!
I shall try to do so again this year, but I'm not too hopeful. The chances of having clear skies over Hong Kong in mid-August are not very high.