The peak of the annual phenomenon is on Wednesday – but at an inconvenient time.
The annual Perseids meteor shower falls this year in the afternoon and the early evening of next Wednesday (August 12th). According to the Vienna Working Group for Astronomy (WAA), the competition from daylight will therefore greatly cloud the view of the falling stars. At night, the moon is also a nuisance.
Every year in mid-August, the earth crosses the orbit of comet 109P / Swift-Tuttle, whose dust trail creates the falling stars of the Perseids. This happens because the dust grains collide with the earth’s atmosphere at about 60 kilometers per second. There they evaporate at great heights, making the air behind them glow. The name “Perseids” comes from the fact that it looks like stars are falling out of the constellation of Perseus. The meteor shower is also called “Tears of Laurentius” because its appearance coincides with the name day of the martyr Laurentius on August 10th and was interpreted as tears from heaven over his martyrdom.
Highlight on Wednesday
This year the maximum of the phenomenon falls around August 12th. The Perseids head for their peak in the hours of the day between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. According to WAA President Alexander Pikhard, it is not possible to actually see the 100 to 110 shooting stars per hour that are actually possible for this extended period of time in Europe this year. Rather realistic are around 30 sightings per hour under maximally dark conditions – i.e. without annoying moon and artificial light in the vicinity of the observation area. In theory, this number would increase to 100 sightings by around 5 a.m. on August 13th. However, since the waning moon rises around midnight, the rate of actually visible events will be significantly reduced.
In view of the current Covid-19 situation, Pikhard warns of the formation of nocturnal crowds: “To observe the meteors, you only need the naked eye, no telescope or binoculars, so no observatory, and a dark place. Look for this in small groups at most so that the required distance can be maintained. ” Due to the corona and the less than ideal conditions for observation this year, the WAA is not organizing an event for collective star gazing on Vienna’s Sophienalpe, where thousands of people have met in the past for the event.