Major sky show: supermoon and Perseids may dazzle

Get ready for a possible sky sensation tonight.

The brightest supermoon in 20 years and the annual Perseid meteor shower will team up the next two nights. The combination of these two celestial events and a crisp clean and dry Canadian air mass overhead could make for some of the best sky watching over Minnesota in years.

Anatomy of a supermoon

Not since Jim Carrey and Barry White teamed up to bring Jennifer Anniston the biggest moon of her life has the moon looked so big as it will over Minnesota this week.

YouTube

It’s called a “supermoon.” But this one might be called the Superest moon, or the Super Duper Moon as it is the brightest moon in 20 years. That means the moon is about 14 percent closer and 30 percent brighter than your average full moon.

NASA

Perseids, too

Of course the brightest moon in 20 years will compete with the annual Perseids meteor show, but that may not be all bad according to NASA.

NASA

The Perseids are known for producing the most fireballs of any meteor show of the year.

NASA

These super bright and colorful meteor streaks should be visible even with the supermoon.

NASA

Here’s a look at the Perseid forecast from NASA.

2014 Perseids Forecast

This year the Perseids will peak during the night and early morning hours of 12 and 13 of August. Unfortunately, a nearly full moon (Supermoon) will make it difficult to view the year’s best meteor shower. However, you may still be able to see a few fireballs.

Fast Facts

  • Comet of Origin: 109P/Swift-Tuttle
  • Radiant: Constellation Perseus
  • Active: 17 July — 24 Aug. 2014
  • Peak Activity: 12-13 Aug. 2014
  • Peak Activity Meteor Count: Up to 100 meteors per hour
  • Meteor Velocity: 59 km (37 miles) per second

About the Meteor Shower
The Perseids, which peak during mid-August, are considered to be the best meteor shower of the year. With very fast and bright meteors, Perseids frequently leave long “wakes” of light and color behind them as they streak through the Earth’s atmosphere. The Perseids are one of the most plentiful showers (50-100 meteors seen per hour) and occurs with warm summer nighttime weather, allowing sky watchers to easily view the shower.

Perseids are also known for their fireballs. Fireballs are larger explosions of light and color that can persist longer than an average meteor streak. This is due to the fact that fireballs originate from larger particles of cometary material. Fireballs are also brighter, with magnitudes brighter than -3.

Viewing Tips
The Perseids are best viewed in the Northern Hemisphere during the pre-dawn hours, though at times it is possible to view meteors from this shower as early as 10:00 p.m.. Find an area well away from city or street lights. Come prepared with a sleeping bag, blanket or lawn chair. Lie flat on your back with your feet facing northeast and look up, taking in as much of the sky as possible After about 30 minutes in the dark, your eyes will adapt and you will begin to see meteors. Be patient — the show will last until dawn, so you have plenty of time to catch a glimpse.

NASA has more on what the rare combination of the Supermoon and Perseids brings this week.

Smoke free skies?

One more factor favoring excellent viewing over Minnesota tonight may be the absence of  what has been a persistent smoke plume from Canadian wildfires. Here’s the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s latest smoke mapper shot, which shows a (brief?) break in the plume over Minnesota.

NOAA

Enjoy the show!

  • Richard Stuart

    Voyaguer Outward Bound School students in the BWCA will be treated to a spectacular show.