One of the biggest meteor showers of the year will be in the night sky this weekend. But the moon and cloud cover could steal the show.
A meteor shower called the Perseids will peak this weekend. The Perseids are caused by the Earth passing through a comet’s debris field, according to the American Meteor Society.
“The Perseids have a pretty good history of being plentiful and pretty bright,” said Harold Henderson, director of the Lake Afton Public Observatory near Goddard. “Even if this year might not be optimum conditions as far as moonlight and the ever-random chance of clouds … it’s one of the more dependable ones (meteor showers).”
Henderson said the meteor shower should peak from Friday night into Saturday morning. But the rate of meteor showers will remain strong after the peak, on Saturday night into Sunday.
“If you’re a day either way…You’re not missing out on a sharp spike,” he said.
NASA says the Perseids could feature more meteors this year, but they might not be visible from Earth.
“The increased number will be cancelled out by the bright Moon, the light of which will wash out the fainter Perseids,” according to a NASA blog post.
Henderson said the best time to look for the Perseids may be before midnight rather than after midnight “when the moon does come up and lights up the sky, hiding the dimmer ones.”
In the Wichita area, skygazers could be thwarted by another factor: the weather.
“Right now, it doesn’t look very promising,” said Scott Smith, a meteorologist with the Wichita branch of the National Weather Service.
Smith said the current forecast calls for showers and storms from Friday night through Sunday. Although there may be pockets of clear sky, it’s a mostly cloudy outlook for the weekend the Perseids peak.
“You’re going to have a lot of residual cloud cover hanging around this weekend until it burns off,” he said Thursday.
Henderson said he would have liked if the moon were less bright this weekend. He hopes the forecast will improve over the next day or so.
“It’s a good time to grab the kids and the grandkids…get out of the way of the city a bit and catch the meteors,” Henderson said.