This year, the Perseid meteor shower will be more of a downpour.
Thursday night into early Friday, the annual meteor shower is expected to peak with double the normal number of meteors. Scientists call this an outburst, and they say it could reach up to 200 meteors per hour.
Prime viewing should be in the predawn hours of Friday, after the moon sets.
The last Perseids outburst was in 2009. Thanks to a gravity nudge from Jupiter, debris from comet Swift-Tuttle could stray closer to Earth again. These scattered specks of dust — a trail in the comet’s wake — are what flash as they enter the atmosphere at a mind-blowing 132,000 mph and burn up.
“Here’s something to think about. The meteors you’ll see this year are from comet flybys that occurred hundreds if not thousands of years ago,” NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke said in a statement. “And they’ve traveled billions of miles before their kamikaze run into Earth’s atmosphere.”
Local astronomer Tom Butler said he’s hoping for a clear night Thursday, when the shower will peak.
“We’re further into the belt of the comet’s tail, so there will be more particles in the atmosphere,” Butler said.
Even though the southwest Colorado sky is already very dark, Butler said the best viewing will come in the predawn hours, after the moon has set. Get as far away from city lights as possible, give your eyes time to adjust and be patient, he said.
“It may take several seconds or a minute before you see (a meteor), but then you may see several at a time,” Butler said.
The meteors will emanate from the constellation Perseus in the northern sky, so make sure your view to the north is not obstructed with trees, Butler said. A mountain meadow would be a perfect spot, but places around McPhee lake, such as the House Creek boat ramp, would work well, too, he said.
Scientists hope to capture the action with a new instrument at the International Space Station. The U.S.-Japanese experiment’s name is appropriately named Meteor.
An August tradition, the Perseids are so named because the meteors appear to emanate from the constellation Perseus, the Medusa-killing hero of Greek mythology.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.